Irish male anorexia : prevalence, presentation and and treatment, an investigation

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Lawrence, Dinah
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Available data on anorexia suggests an increase in the prevalence among the male population in Western cultures. Individual Irish agencies providing treatment for eating disorders suggest a rise in the presentation of male anorexia. This Final Year Project investigates whether the reported rise in presentation in Ireland reflects an actual increase in the number of those with the illness. The aim of the study is to identify issues, raise awareness of this male illness and to identify recommendations for the field of psychotherapy. A qualitative research strategy was adopted to identify themes and patterns and to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the illness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five practitioners currently working in the field. Findings were organized and themes and patterns identified, using thematic content analysis. Analysis of the research shows that male anorexia is increasing in presentation but not necessarily in prevalence, but is misrepresented in statistical information. The research shows similarities between genders but acknowledges some differences in the manifestation and root causes of the illness. A lack of understanding of the manifestation and root causes of male anorexia in Ireland, together with stigmas associated with the illness, often lead to misdiagnosis of the illness. This study shows that male anorexia is a complex illness that can become entrenched and, if not treated properly, can in some cases, end in fatality. Findings show psychotherapy to be effective in the treatment of male anorexia as part of a multidisciplinary treatment approach. The conclusions drawn from this study include recommendations for appropriate training to be given to psychotherapists and for a new approach to be taken in the advertising of counselling and psychotherapy services to male sufferers. Author keywords: male anorexia