It's no surprise that as a society, we overlook males with eating disorders. This deadly disease has been extensively labeled and cast as a "female" disease, (and even still females are being overlooked and misdiagnosed) leaving the other half to suffer in even more shame and silence. Misinformation, and a lack of understanding within the medical community, perpetuates these myths about men and eating disorders…making diagnosis and treatment an added challenge.
ABC News reported today on the many barriers that prevent males from simply recognizing that they have an eating disorder, as well as finding the most appropriate treatment. According to a small study in the journal BMJ Open, it is the widespread perception that eating disorders are uniquely a female disease that causes eating disorders in males to go unrecognized. Unfortunately, these antiquated thoughts around eating disorders mean a delay in diagnosis –and a delay in diagnosis can mean a more entrenched and treatment resistant disease. Often, the situation will reach a crisis point before the disease is recognized. This study also points out the lack of gender appropriate information and resources available to men.
In a disease where early detection is imperative; these outdated ideas, practically nonexistent resources, and the lack of proper training in the medical community are all contributing factors to the huge way we are failing these men.
Dr. Evelyn Attia, director of the Eating Disorders Research Program at Columbia University Medical Center, said "Families and health care providers need to realize this is a gender-neutral illness that affects all walks of life equally. As such, early detection and treatment is key. There is no clear data of specific causes for eating disorders in men, thus the focus should be on early symptoms and behavior."
Eating disorders do not discriminate. Eating disorders do not know gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic status. Eating disorders are life-threatening gender-neutral mental illnesses that must be taken seriously.
At Kantor & Kantor, LLP, we experience the damaging impact of eating disorders every single day. We also understand that eating disorders can affect anyone. We know this not only because of the research that supports it, but because our clients come in all shapes and sizes, different ages and races, both male and female.
While eating disorders have been predominately recognized as a female's disease, it is long overdue that we begin to integrate new information about men into the way we research, diagnose, treat and understand eating disorders. Until we do, boys and men will continue to suffer in silence, face increased shame and stigma, and battle a life threatening illness without proper resources.
If you have been denied insurance coverage for the treatment of your eating disorder – whether you are male or female - contact our office for support. We understand, and we can help.