Exploring men's experiences and understanding of binge eating disorder : an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Spyrou, Spyroula (2014) Exploring men's experiences and understanding of binge eating disorder : an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Binge Eating Disorder (BED) appears to have a fairly equal prevalence in men and women. However, men with BED have been overlooked in research as studies have mainly focused on women. As a result, there appears to be a limited understanding of men’s experiences and treatment needs of BED, including from a Counselling Psychology perspective. A qualitative study was undertaken to explore men’s experiences and understanding of BED including their experiences in seeking, accessing and receiving treatment. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with six men who had a diagnosis of BED. Data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis resulting in four super-ordinate themes: the experience of BED; the process of understanding; the stigmatised male self and the experience of treatment. The experience of BED was described as a divergent experience of negative and positive facets, characterised by a futile struggle to control their eating. The men described living a constrained life with BED similar to living in an inescapable trap. In trying to make sense of their BED, the men discussed the function of BED in their lives and they compared BED to an addiction. The experience of BED in men encompassed feelings of isolation and stigma due to having what they perceived as a female and/or homosexual disorder. These men discussed their strong adherence to male stereotypes of masculinity and having BED was perceived as unacceptable and emasculating. The participants’ struggles with treatment were emphasised as they sought to find unavailable support and received what they felt to be inadequate treatment care. The applicability of these findings for professional practice and Counselling Psychology practice are discussed and include exploring men’s recommendations towards tailoring treatment to meet their needs, for example all-male group therapy and addressing masculinity and stigma.

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