Body Image Issues in Males
A few months ago, we wrote briefly about how males also battle eating disorders. This month, we want to dive into more details about some of the mental issues that come along with eating disorders in males. When men look in the mirror, sometimes the image reflecting back at them isn’t what they want to see. In the media today, we’re bombarded by pictures of what the “perfect man” looks like. Tall, strong, endowed with perfect abs and in perfect shape. Jessica Lovejoy, a writer at the Huffington Post wrote this about male body image: “In today’s society, the ideal man should be tall, rugged, handsome, muscular, be well-endowed, be an excellent lover, be strong, emotionless.”
In this pursuit of “perfection,” men will often seek outside help, such as steroids, to achieve their desired body type. However, a larger frame isn’t the only body type males pursue. To fit into the more fashionable world, men will also try to drastically drop their weight in order to, literally, fit in. The pursuit of extreme thinness can be seen more prevalently in the LGBT community. Body image not only affects our personal image of ourselves, but it can affect how we interact with others and our behaviors. And, it also has an effect on our physical and mental health.
Why Are These Issues Around?
Our views of body image are formed as we are growing up. Even as children, we are bombarded by images of what our bodies should look like in order to gain approval in the world. For men, these images can be their favorite wrestlers, superheroes that they see in television and in comics, their favorite action figures, or even their fathers.
Men’s views on body image are also formed while at school. Kids who carry extra weight will often be bullied by their skinnier peers. Fat-shaming at a young age can lead to detrimental mental results when a male reaches adulthood.
In the sports world, men are constantly competing to be the best. Not only are they competing to be the best, but they’re also competing for their family’s livelihood at the professional level. One wrong move or one bad play could be the difference between sitting on top of the world and sitting on the bench. In order to keep up, men will dive into steroids for a physical advantage. This desire to constantly build muscle mass or lose weight can spiral out of control into body dysphoria.
Body Dysphoria & Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body image issues aren’t just a physical problem, because they more than likely will turn into mental issues, as well. These are what psychologists call body dysphoria and body dysmorphic disorders. Body dysmorphic disorder is a disorder that involves a belief that one’s own appearance is unusually defective and is worthy of being hidden or fixed. You see your body differently than everyone else sees it, and this negative view of yourself can lead to body dysphoria as feelings of depression, low self-esteem and even self-hate set in.
When suffering from body dysphoria disorder, men can either see themselves as too large or too small. When they look in the mirror, their mind projects an image that is different than everyone else sees. In order to “fix” this twisted image they have of themselves, they may begin suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. On the other hand, men might see themselves as being too thin, and begin doing things to change that. They view their thinness as being weak, and to counter that, men will build their muscle mass and this could turn into muscle dysphoria. Sociologist Anthony Cortese, author of Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, says that men suffering from muscle dysphoria “…are obsessed with attaining an unrealistic cultural standard of muscularity as masculinity.”
Breaking the Silence
In 2014, the TODAY Show in conjunction with AOL conducted a Body Image survey and the results showed that men were more worried about their personal appearance than their health, their family, their relationships, or professional success. Here are some more results from their survey:
- 63 percent of guys said they “always feel like (they) could lose weight
- 53 percent don’t like having their picture taken
- 41 percent said they worry that people judge their appearance
- 44 percent feel uncomfortable wearing swim trunks
If you think that are suffering from body dysphoria or body dysmorphic disorder, here are some signs to look for:
- You frequently check yourself out in the mirror.
- You are constantly flexing muscles trying to gauge your progress.
- You are eating much more or much less than usual.
- You tend to not want to go out or be social because you don’t think you look good.
- You wear large clothing, such as hoodies and sweatshirts, to hide your appearance
- You LIVE in the gym, spending hours at a time trying to bulk up.
- You don’t take compliments about your appearance well.
- You always feel something negative about your appearance.
This can escalate into deeper mental health problems which could lead to the worst case scenario of taking your own life. And, that’s never the right answer. If you see this happening in your life, don’t hesitate to seek out professional help here at Holiner or at your nearest mental health practice. Seeking out help can rebuild self-esteem and help you reverse the negative effects your body dysphoria has had on your life and the lives of those around you.