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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK


Male eating disorders 'go untreated'

TV star Adam Rickitt suffered from an eating disorder

Doctors and psychologists are failing to identify men suffering from eating disorders, research has found.

The study, by the Eating Disorders Association (EDA), found that health professionals were only used to treating women with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.

Now the EDA hopes to raise awareness of the fact that men too can suffer from the debilitating disorders.

Around one in 10 of the UK's 60,000 people reported as suffering from eating disorders are men.

But experts believe the figure could be far higher as men are less likely to admit to the condition than women.

They also believe that gay men are more likely to suffer from eating disorders because of an obsession with body image and physical perfection.

The EDA review of services for men with eating disorders aims to collect more up-to-date and accurate figures, and ask male sufferers about their experiences.

It will be completed by the end of the year and further research will then be commissioned into men and eating disorders.

The issue was highlighted in 1997 by the public admission of pop star and former Coronation Street actor Adam Rickitt that he battled with bulimia at school.

Not used to seeing men

A spokesman for the EDA said: "The usual route to an eating disorders unit is through a GP and then a psychologist.

"The problem is that at least 90% of the people seen with eating disorders are women.

"Doctors and psychologists are not used to seeing men and may not pick up on the warning signs that they are suffering from an eating disorder."

He added: "Men have different problems when it comes to eating disorders and the diagnosis can be more complicated.

"Instead of simply starving, they tend to over-exercise and cut down on the amount they eat.

"They may not look drawn and painfully thin like female sufferers, but instead appear muscular, but they are still suffering from the same eating disorder."

The spokesman said another problem was that classic signs of anorexia, such as missed periods, are obviously not going to be seen in men.

Men may also require different therapies and an alternative approach to treatment.

"We need to find out what men need from the provision of healthcare services and whether it is different from women," the spokesman said.

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