What You Should Know About Body Dysmorphia in Men
Do you find yourself constantly looking in the mirror imagining that you would look and feel better without that pesky (fill in the blank) that has been bothering you for years — but no one else seems to notice the same thing?
Welcome to body dysmorphia. In this article, we will discuss body dysmorphia as it relates to men and how to mitigate the effects of body dysmorphia in men today.
Body Dysmorphia in a Nutshell
According to the Mayo Clinic, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is “a mental disorder that causes men and women to constantly obsess over perceived flaws in their physical appearance.”
When people have body dysmorphia, no one else seems to be aware of the perceived flaw that keeps their loved one behind closed doors for days (or even weeks.) People with body dysmorphic disorder are so consumed with their imaginary flaws that they often avoid social situations because of their perceived defects.
Body Dysmorphia Affects Men Too
When we think of body dysmorphia, the first image that comes to mind is likely to be that of a woman staring in the mirror and obsessing over her image. However, what many people are unaware of is that there are many men who also deal with issues with body dysmorphia. Men may have the same concerns over what they perceive as flaws in their bodies as their female counterparts.
Body dysmorphia is not bound by sex, gender or sexual orientation. Body dysmorphia can cause anyone to be consumed with the idea that something about their physical appearance seems to be off. In most cases, there aren’t any perceivable flaws at all. This makes the concept of body dysmorphia in men so intriguing.
No “Body Positive” Support Groups for Men
Women with body dysmorphic disorder may find it easier to reach out for help than men who suffer from the same condition. The woman’s body positivity movement provides resources and support for women living with body dysmorphic disorder and related issues.
We’ve made great strides in promoting body positivity in the United States. Body positivity teaches us that no one looks perfect and to learn to love your flaws. Healthy body positivity doesn’t say there isn’t room for improving yourself, but teaches you to be comfortable in the skin you’re in. However, there don’t seem to be as many resources for men with this condition.
Body positivity efforts and support are usually more focused on women. We look at female beauty standards more critically, pointing out that women need not look like models and that it’s OK to love yourself. Women face many body issues, so this makes sense. However, men face issues too. Men have concerns over issues with their height, weight, and physical appearance just like women. Many men have insecurities with their appearance. The following are a few examples of insecurities a man can face.
Common Male Body Image Concerns
- Hair Loss. If a man loses their hair at a young age, they may obsess over it. Men may try many ways to restore their hair or wear wigs, yet end up still dissatisfied (even when they have had hair replacement surgery.)
- Weight Gain. Just like women, many men obsess over their weight as they get older and gain weight faster than they used to. A man may feel that if he doesn’t have washboard abs that the world will see him as undesirable.
- Height. Shorter men may feel undesirable related to their taller counterparts. There have been many jokes made at the expense of shorter men, and some women may let them know in no uncertain terms that being short is a dating deal breaker. As this is something a man can’t control, he may feel dysmorphic about his appearance and may try to increase his height through unhealthy means.
- Penis Size. It is common for men to be overly concerned with their penis size. Our society often correlates penis size with “masculinity.” Evidence of body dysmorphia is present when men obsess and constantly worry that their penis is too small (without evidence that this is the case). This misconception can affect male self-esteem and limit his dating options in the real world as he feels inadequate.
No Support Networks for Men?
A woman may seek support if she is uncomfortable with her body. For example, when a woman has a perceived flaw she is uncomfortable with, she might post on social media and receive validation from her friends and other supporters.
A man may be afraid to talk about their body dysmorphia, as they don’t want to be perceived as complaining or whiney. They may even talk about it, but they may not get the support they need.
Body Dysmorphia Affects Men of All Ages
Body dysmorphia often begins during the teenage years for men and women. A teen boy may want to date. However, many of their peers are often superficial about who they date. A teen may feel like his body isn’t adequate enough in the grand scheme of things.
Some people eventually outgrow this feeling of inadequacy, but some men continue to feel these emotions into adulthood.
Left unchecked, feelings of body dissatisfaction continue to grow worse. Aging may have a positive or negative effect on the perception of body dysmorphia. Some men may realize that their looks fade, and it’s time to work on their personality. However, other men may obsess with how they look and worry about aging.
Celebrities Have Body Dysmorphia Too
You may think mental health issues like body dysmorphia wouldn’t affect someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his prime, he was a muscle powerhouse. Would you be surprised to know that Arnold Schwarzenegger says has never been satisfied with his own looks?
Isn’t it ironic that while many young men and boys aspire to look like him, that he aspires to look like someone else? This is an example of how body dysmorphia can affect men of any race, class, or status.
Arnold has stated publicly that his looks never fully satisfied him, and that he often wanted to throw up whenever he saw himself in a mirror. According to Schwarzenegger, as he has grown older, the feeling hasn’t gone away.
Where Men Can Get Help
Body dysmorphia affects many men and they don’t know how or where to get help. Symptoms of body dysmorphia are treatable through medication and psychological treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. A man who has body dysmorphia should seek the help of a therapist, as it is treatable.
A man may always feel a little insecure related to his perceived physical appearance, but with a little therapy, he can mitigate the symptoms of body dysmorphia and learn to have a healthier outlook on his appearance. It’s also important to learn that men deal with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia.
If you find that a man is complaining about his appearance or having unexplainable anxiety, listen to his concerns and provide support. Even if he doesn’t have body dysmorphia, encourage him to accept the way he looks and to make healthy changes if he is unsatisfied with his appearance.