Delays in Diagnosis of Eating Disorders in Men

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Early intervention tends to improve the outcome of most diseases and disorders.  This proves to be a challenge when it comes to the diagnosis of men and eating disorders according to a recent small qualitative study.  Because of cultural views that stereotype eating disorders as a women’s disorder, the men themselves as well as their family members were slow to identify the behaviors as a reflection of an eating disorder.  In addition, primary care physicians were also slow to treat the illness even in cases in which medical attention was clearly necessary.  Our eating disorder therapist at Brookhaven Hospital, Vickie McDaniel, MSW agrees the tide of societal norms is strong, “It seems that society is more willing to accept a man’s appearance whether overweight or underweight. This likely contributes to an eating disorder for a man going undiagnosed. If men are overweight they might be considered husky or strong, and if they are underweight it might be written off as being healthy, lean, or fit.”

Larger studies are necessary to examine the causes and best ways to identify eating disorders in men.  Our culture seems to be shifting as there has been a rise in men reporting body image concerns as well as a rise in eating disorders among men.  According to the National Eating Disorder Association, men reporting dissatisfaction with their bodies has increased from 15% to 43% over the last 30 years.   Men are generally less likely to seek help, but there is help available.  Here at Brookhaven Hospital, we treat both men and women in our eating disorder treatment program. Click here for more information.

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