Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Men need to admit to eating disorders, specialists say

Stigma, particularly in this region, is leading many men to live with eating disorders in silence, say specialists at a new clinic set up to tackle the problem.

DUBAI // Men obsessed with their appearance and fitness levels could be living with silent eating disorders, according to specialists at the launch of Dubai’s first clinic to treat the condition.

One in five people in the US suffer from some kind of disordered eating, according to the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, which also says that it affects about 70 million people worldwide.

Of those, 95 per cent are girls aged between 15 and 25. Of the rest, about 15 per cent are men but many more could be living in silence with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or body dysmorphia, experts say.

Carine El Khazen Hadati, a psychologist and eating disorders practitioner at the new clinic, in Jumeirah, said the number of men with eating disorders is increasing but it could be much higher as a stigma prevents men from coming forward.

“Eating disorders are becoming much more common in men,” she said. “Ten years ago the female to male ratio of anorexia was 10:1, now it is 4:1.

“In the UAE, up to 40 per cent of those with an eating disorder are men but we’re sure the number is actually a lot higher because of the stigma attached to it.

“In this part of the world, male psychology is already complicated, so it is even harder to encourage men to get help for what is commonly perceived as a feminine disorder.”

Eating disorders are considered one of the deadliest mental health conditions, with about 20 per cent thought to die from associated conditions or health complications such as malnourishment.

Of normal dieters, 35 per cent are thought to progress to pathological dieting, with a quarter of those progressing to a full-syndrome eating disorder. Severe dieting is the number one risk factor.

Though the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, it is generally believed that a variety of factors, including genetics, environmental, cultural and psychosocial, contribute to the development of the illness.

“Eating disorders cannot be blamed on society but certain factors, such as peer pressure and social media, act as triggers,” Ms Hadati added.

“Steroid use, and the constant demand to attain the perfect image, is having a big effect.

“Muscle dysmorphia is more common in men, where the individual is obsessed with looking a certain way. No matter how much the person builds muscle, whether through natural methods or by using steroids, they always perceive themselves as being too small.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: December 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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