Young people are leaving it ‘too late’ to seek help for eating disorders, citing fear of losing control over their eating or weight, denial, and failure to perceive the severity of the illness as reasons not to get professional advice.
This is according to a study that involved almost 300 Australian young adults aged 18-25 years, and which found a majority had eating, weight or body shape concerns, and even those with anorexia or bulimia reportedly found reasons to delay getting treatment or expert interventions.
The first author of the study, Kathina Ali, Research Associate in Psychology at Flinders University, explains that concern for others and the belief one should solve their own problems were the two most common barriers towards seeking help for eating concerns.
“Not wanting others to worry about their problems was the highest endorsed barrier – it reflects the wish for autonomy and also the fear of being a burden to others in this group of young adults.”
Feeling embarrassed about their problems or fearing that other people do not believe eating disorders are real illnesses even prevented young adults experiencing symptoms of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa from seeking help, says fellow psychology researcher Dr Dan Fassnacht.
“(More concerning,) only a minority of people with eating disorder symptoms had sought professional help and few believed they needed help despite the problems they were experiencing,” says Dr. Fassnacht, Flinders University Psychology Lecturer, co-author of a new paper just published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.(Wiley).
In the research, entitled ‘What prevents young adults from seeking help? Barriers toward help?Seeking for eating disorder symptomatology’, the Australian and German researchers recommended clinicians (counsellors, health workers and others) and the public be made aware of these barriers.
More information and education about the severity and the impact of eating disorders – and how symptoms can get worse without interventions or treatment – should be available to young adults, including the importance of seeking help, and self-management strategies.
Weight issues also affect the LGBTQIA community, with 44% to 70% of LGBTQ teens reported weight-based teasing from family members, 41% to 57% reported weight-based teasing from peers, and as many as 44% reported weight-based teasing from both family members and peers.
Meanwhile, specific to the gay community, a study found that Grindr, the most popular dating app for gay, bisexual, two-spirit and queer men, had a negative effect on men’s body image, especially when it came to weight. The study also found that apart from weight stigma, body dissatisfaction stemmed from sexual objectification and appearance comparison. With three out of four gay men reported to have used Grindr, this issue affects a big chunk of the gay population.