The role of gendered constructions of eating disorders in delayed help-seeking in men: a qualitative interview study

Räisänen, U. and Hunt, K. (2014) The role of gendered constructions of eating disorders in delayed help-seeking in men: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open, 4(4), e004342. (doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004342)

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<b>Objectives</b> To understand how young men recognise eating disorder (ED) symptoms and decide to seek help, and to examine their experiences of initial contacts with primary care.<p></p> <b>Design</b> A qualitative interview study.<p></p> <b>Setting</b> Men from across the UK were interviewed as part of a study of 39 young men's and women's experiences of having an ED.<p></p> <b>Participants</b> 10 men aged 16–25 years with various EDs including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.<p></p> <b>Results</b> The widespread perception of EDs as uniquely or predominantly a female problem led to an initial failure by young men to recognise their behaviours as symptoms of an ED. Many presented late in their illness trajectory when ED behaviours and symptoms were entrenched, and some felt that opportunities to recognise their illness had been missed because of others’ lack of awareness of EDs in men. In addition, the men discussed the lack of gender-appropriate information and resources for men with EDs as an additional impediment to making sense of their experiences, and some felt that health and other professionals had been slow to recognise their symptoms because they were men.<p></p> <b>Conclusions</b> Although increasingly common in young men, widespread cultural constructions of EDs as a ‘women's illness’ mean that men may fail to recognise ED symptoms until disordered behaviours become entrenched and less tractable to intervention. Men also report that such perceptions can affect the reactions of their families and friends, as well as health and educational professionals. Primary care professionals are well placed to challenge inappropriate perceptions of EDs.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn
Authors: Räisänen, U., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMJ Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN (Online):2044-6055
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2013 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Open 4(4):e004342
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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