(HealthDay News) — Cultural misperceptions of eating disorders as a female problem pose a barrier to recognition of symptoms in men, according to a study published in the April issue of BMJ Open.

Ulla Räisänen and Kate Hunt, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues interviewed 10 men (aged 16–25 years) regarding their eating disorder experiences (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa).

The researchers found that the widespread perception of eating disorders as a female problem led to an initial failure by young men to recognize their behaviors as symptoms of a disorder, with many presenting late in their illness trajectory when behaviors and symptoms were entrenched. Some participants felt that opportunities to recognize their illness had been missed because of others’ lack of awareness of eating disorders in men. The men reported a lack of gender-appropriate eating disorder information and resources for men as an additional impediment to making sense of their experiences.

“Although increasingly common in young men, widespread cultural constructions of eating disorders as a ‘women’s illness’ mean that men may fail to recognize eating disorder symptoms until disordered behaviors become entrenched and less tractable to intervention,” the authors write.

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