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Male athletes are underrepresented in eating disorders research. This phenomenological study investigated the experiences of male athletes who self-identified as having an eating disorder, disordered eating, or compulsive exercise behaviors. Eight male collegiate athletes were interviewed, and qualitative analysis identified factors associated with the onset and maintenance of disordered behaviors. Among the novel findings was the salient influence of social media as a driver of body dissatisfaction and disordered behaviors. The participants described a perceived sense of control and feeling of pride associated with the use of behaviors, cultural norms in a male sport environment that sustained these behaviors, and a shared belief that, until they experienced a loss of control over their use of behaviors, they would not likely ask for help or seek treatment. These findings have implications for additional research, as well as individual and systems-level strategies for the prevention, screening, and treatment of eating and exercise disorders in male sport.
Freedman and Hage are with the Psychology Department, Springfield College, Springfield, MA, USA. Quatromoni is with the Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.