Men Were Asked To Share Their Thoughts On Body Dysmorphia And They Deliver 30 Honest Answers
Mental disorders affect everyone. Young or old. Rich or poor. Male or female. However, when it comes to various body and eating disorders, some internet users feel like men tend to be sidelined almost entirely while everyone focuses almost exclusively on women’s issues.
Redditors have been discussing male body dysmorphia on the r/AskMen subreddit after a user asked them how they feel about the issue being sidelined when compared to anorexia or bulimia. You’ll find what they had to say below, Pandas.
Body dysmorphic disorder, also known as body dysmorphia or BDD, is a mental health condition. Those suffering from it spend a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, most of which aren’t noticed by others. It’s a condition that mostly affects teenagers and young adults, both male and female. There’s a lot of overlap between BDD and eating disorders, however, they aren’t exactly the same. You’ll find Bored Panda’s interview about how the pressure to conform and be ‘perfect’ can lead to various disorders with an expert in the field below.
My whole family sat me down when I was 12 to tell me that I was getting fat.
This was months after I told them that I was being bullied and didn't know how to handle it.
My dad is also a PhD psychologist.
Companies like Dove are all about using plus sized female models to encourage woman to feel good about themselves which I completely support, BUT when was the last time you saw an underwear ad for men with a male model that wasn't muscular with chiseled abs? It's completely hypocritical.
Body dysmorphia is definitely a thing for guys with real consequences especially the teenage years. Boys and Girls both start noticing their body changing around teenage years and start compring themselves to the "hot kids" at their school. I have a 17 year old brother who's been a serious athlete since he was little. He measures his food by the gram every meal and is obsessed with nutrition and performance. We're talking a sub 5 minute mile and 20-something miles endurance runs everyday. The little f*cker has abs for days but is never satisfied! ALL he would talk about is how the top kid on his cross country team looks like this and runs this fast woopty-woo yadda, yadda.. He's going to the Olympics etc. None of that bothers me as much as when he skips meals as a punishment for going out to dinner for our dad's birthday or refusing to eat even his normal low calorie stuff as a punishment to "make up" for something. It's like he didn't even think he was skinny at 119lbs 5'8". I was frustrated with him but I could tell something was off. He didn't realize how he looked and was chasing an impossible goal. He finally broke down one day and admitted his hunger and pain from over working his body. It was the worst feeling I've had talking with him about it but I'm glad he opened up. He's doing much better and even gained some weight after deciding to personalize his fitness goals and is even running a little faster now while maintaining his weight. He's a talented kid and I love him very much and will always be proud of the little sh*t. I thinks it's a mistake to compare the experiences of body dysmorphia between the sexes while trying to figure out if one's worse than the other. It's probably mostly similar for everyone. It's good to have fitness goals and work hard for them but not at the cost of your physical health and sanity. I don't think you have to treat people special because they're experiencing these issues but it's a good idea to be supportive of recovery, positively, if you can. Me personality couldn't give less of a f*ck about my body tbh.
There is quite a lot of common ground between body dysmorphia and eating disorders. For example, people with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia and those suffering from BDD can be overly concerned with their appearance, weight, shape, and size. They can also obsessively check their weight and appearance in the mirror and exercise excessively (though some avoid mirrors altogether). Researchers estimate that around 12 percent of people with BDD also have anorexia or bulimia.
Some people suffering from body dysmorphia can worry quite a lot about specific areas of their bodies, whether it’s their faces, hips, thighs, hair, or any other part. They also spend a lot of time comparing their looks to those of others and trying to conceal their ‘flaws.’ Body dysmorphia can affect your daily life, lead to depression, and even to thoughts of self-harm.
A female friend of mine STRONGLY believes that body dysmorphia and insecurities are solely a misogynistic and patriarchal issue that only affects women. Man, it’s so frustrating to talk to her about that. As a guy who has had severe body dysmorphia since before high school, I try to tell her that it affects men equally as well. But she still believes that society’s ideals for a perfect body are unfairly imposed on the females ONLY and that males don’t have to deal with such insecurities and expectations.
A lot of guys hate their bodies. Hell just trawl through the threads around here and look at all the ones convinced their life is a mess because they're short, bald, ugly, can't grow a beard, can't get a six pack or whatever. Hell plenty just want to be skinny like so many women.
I'm not sure what, if anything, there is to be done about it but it's definitely there.
This is SO true... as a younger person.. I went to the gym 6 days a week... lifted literal TONS of weight... ran endless miles... ate a perfect diet... to all my supplements... and I was in GREAT shape... BUT.. I did not look like Captain America when he first steps out of the pod... so I felt like a soft fat f*ck... I never attained the unattainable physique (for me) and so I felt ugly and weak.. when I could literally do 200 pushups without breathing hard and run 5K in 22 minutes... Body Dysmorphia in Men is real and a real problem.
The pressure to conform to socially ‘approved’ or ‘perfect’ body images can result in various psychological issues, including dangerous eating disorders. Catherine Cook-Cottone, a Professor of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology at the University at Buffalo, told Bored Panda that social pressure and the exposure to ‘perfect’ body images on social images can contribute to the development of various disorders.
Catherine noted that society tends to have a rather narrow view of eating disorders, many people believing that it’s just women who succumb to them. This is simply not true. Just as men can develop body dysmorphia, they can also develop eating disorders that tend to be viewed mostly from the female perspective in society.
I think a lot of it has to do with how little the general public knows about steroid use. I’ve known tons of people that have slightly above average natural physiques that cruise control low dose test. While their physiques were absolutely obtainable naturally, they weren’t obtainable with their lifestyles. The average person sees their physiques and assumes that with enough work they can eat whatever they want and drink three days a week and look like them. I don’t think people realize how many people are on steroids because they associate it with huge bodybuilders.
There’s also the fact that because people’s favorite actor/strength athlete doesn’t admit to steroid use, they assume their physique is hard work and dedication. There are literally people on Eddie Hall’s YouTube comments claiming that he is natural.
I don’t think male body dysmorphia is taken seriously because there’s a large percentage of the population that just isn’t aware of it.
If a man tells his therapist that he's experiencing body dysmorphia, hates his body, etc. then he'll be taken seriously the same way as if a woman did.
The problem is that men just aren't talking to therapists, or anyone else, about their issues. At best they're turning inwards, engaging with bad faith "bro science" communities full of grifters.
I am not going to disagree that these aren't issues, they definitely are. Men have many issues that aren't as focused on as they are with women. Mental illness, abuse, and even cancer. Men have societal expectations that are toxic also. All of these should be taken seriously. However we as men need to change, for that to happen. We can't blame women for it and in some ways we can't even blame societal expectations.
We live in a patriarchal society. I think we are shifting away from that, but slowly. I know men have a tendency to scoff, when women complain about that. The irony is that patriarchal society, that we as men created and fueled for centuries, wasn't just toxic for women, but men. We still control most things, like media, money, and most of society. We are to blame. We could have more of these. Women have all of their support groups and causes, because they spoke up. They said we aren't going to take this. They banded together for their causes. They even created change with their pockets. They got involved and banded together.
We have to speak up about our fights with things like mental illness, eating disorders, and abuse. We can cry and have emotions. We can be sensitive and insecure. All of those things are ok. We have to change. We can't blame societal expectations, because in many ways, we put those on ourself and we continue to propagate them. We in a way created this mess and have to fix it. I know this all sounds man hating in a way. It's not. We have so much potential. We just need to be the change. Society would be all the better if men banded together to stop toxic masculinity.
I don't know, part of me thinks we would have a better society, if men realized they are part of the problem, but also part of the solution.
Just my two cents.
“Men are also at risk for disordered eating. The risk appears to be somewhat lower, but that does not mean that it doesn't happen. Anorexia nervosa is a very dangerous disorder with a relatively high mortality rate when compared to other disorders. It is dangerous to assume that men are not also at risk as you might miss supporting someone who desperately needs support,” she told Bored Panda that assumptions can cause a lot of harm to those people who need our support the most.
According to Catherine, a combination of medical, psychological, and nutritional care can help a person tackle their disorder. “This three-armed approach should be a team that is willing to work together, consult with each other and support your recovery. For some people, they may need day treatment or inpatient care—your team will know what is right for you,” she said that reaching out for help is something we shouldn’t be afraid to do.
One of the most important things I have learned is I can only be the best version of myself. I will never have facial hair, a strong chin, or huge muscles it’s just not in the genes. So I focus on things I can control and make those aspects the way I want them (nice hair, lean frame, clear skin etc). Spending time and effort on an impossible task will only lead to frustration and disappointment.
I agree but also it's important to remember men can also suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Men are often overlooked and dismissed when it comes to mental illness in general, body image issues are no different in that regard. Increasing awareness and destigmatizing mental illness and body image issues among men is important. There is also a major need for male focused resources, support groups, and services. There are groups out there doing great work towards guiding men into healthier lifestyles but they are constantly in need of volunteers and support.
Men having self esteem issues doesn’t get enough attention in society. Frick man I remember my sophomore year of college being filled with self esteem issues.
One good example: I had a huge crush on a coworker of mine that year. We always talked on shift and had deep conversations. I would try to flirt with her, but she made it pretty clear she wasn’t interested. At that time, I had horrible acne on my forehead and between my eyebrows. I tried changing my diet, exfoliating, over the counter acne medicines. None of it worked. I wound up going to a dermatologist until I found a medication that worked. I was so convinced she thought I was ugly because of my acne and that’s why she wasn’t interested. I hated looking in the mirror and would even lose friggin sleep over it.
I carried those self esteem issues until I met my wife who I’ve been married to for almost 10 years now. I was honest about my self esteem issues with her in the beginning. She actively worked at building up confidence in myself. I really believe that if it wasn’t for her, I never would have been able to work through it. I always kept those issues buried so no one knew to help.
I hope we can get to a place where men are less afraid to be open about issues they have with body image. And that those around them will build them up.
“The goal is to end the ongoing and dangerous fight with your body that stunts physical, emotional, and relational wellbeing and back to being in and of your body in a way that allows you to thrive physically, emotionally, and in relationships—to be in and of your body so you can get back to your goals and dreams.”
Catherine noted that this balanced approach is called ‘positive embodiment.’ “You not only work to end the symptoms—you work to create a full life that does not include the eating disorders,” she noted that a holistic approach is best.
“It’s actually a very beautiful process to watch as those who are lost in the disorder begin to explore their reason for being, get back to feeling all their feelings, and get back to making choices from their hearts and minds rather than from a place of perfectionism and avoidance.”
There is a problem in the area of mental health in general for men. There are so many that associate therapy with weakness and I think a lot of guys really think twice before getting help.
I think all three are really serious issues that men face in today’s world. As much as women talk about unrealistic beauty standards, men face similar pressures too.
It’s really important to remember that the people you see on underwear packages have top tier workout and nutrition advice, and they only look that ripped for a shoot, and they still get their photos edited to be perfect.
It’s unfortunate to see men and women base their self-worth around what their body looks like. It’s important to eat healthy and work out, sure, but it shouldn’t define you as a person.
I think this is related to the epidemic that men are not allowed to express emotions. To have body dysmorphia is to be emotional.
I think it's definitely the reason why I got in to working out and eating healthy. It's never enough for me. I hit my ideal weight pre-COVID, but wasn't as lean as I wanted to be at that weight. During COVID, I ate less due to not working out as hard I was and ended up dropping 20lbs down to my undergraduate weight. I'm now having trouble eating enough because I don't want to look skinny fat again. It's a mind f*ck and can ruin my days.
I think men are prone to silently accepting their lot in life as opposed to seeking social support and people are more willing to accept I'm fine from a man who is clearly struggling.
If you have any real experience with working out you realize that 99% of the great physiques you see are both genetically gifted and enhanced with drugs.
That isn't to say they didn't work hard for it and it should not deter you from trying to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
I think alot of men's softer and insecure sides are ignored or hushed down despite the evidence telling us it should not be. Mostly by men themselves and society follows, or is it the other way around? I think it's hard to tell with these things. What came first the stigma or the behaviour?
Honestly I think we're in a phase now where we are starting to re-define what is is to be a man where we allow people to actually ask these questions about men, and let other men answer it without guilt or stigma. Kinda similar to what women have been doing for the last 100-150 years. Just in the last quarter of a century we have seen a Lot of development with regards to men in the western hemisphere. I think the next 50-100 years are going to be interesting with regards to men's mental wellbeing.
It's funny because everybody I speak to daily in the gym who isn't chiseled says they "just want to be a little fitter", and then here I am not satisfied with shoulders the size of my head.
I was born with a lazy eye and droopy eyelids...
Had surgery on the eye when i was little...
I have ALWAYS wanted to get rid of my goddamn droopy eyelids...i'm 32 now...i always look tired and it weighs me down mentally... male body dysmorphia is real.
Mental health issues for men are simply not taken seriously by anyone hardly ever. Sometimes there’s the media not taking it seriously but there’s awareness when you talk to people when it comes to certain topics but not men’s mental health. It shows weakness and is hardly ever met with understanding. I agree that steroid abuse and these extreme body builder guys who need sleep apnea machines because they can’t breathe right after gaining all this weight have sever issues with how they look.
The superhero body is a toxic idea. Worse is if you view YouTube channels like Men's Health where celebrities talk about getting those bodies and make it seem attainable. But many don't mention the trainer's and chefs working behind the scenes to help them get there. Rob McElhenney was probably the most honest when he questioned about how he got ripped for Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
I used to work at a popular clothing store that sold both men’s and women’s clothing. They put a huge emphasis on the women’s underwear models and how they’re unphotoshopped, and come in all shapes and sizes. Really good!
One day we all saw that the company shared in their Instagram page that they’re starting the same thing for the men’a underwear. We all thought it was awesome! Turns out that was just an April Fools day joke and went no further.
I find just like women we hold ourselves to higher standards to those around us. We think while we look like a bad version of what we could be. Others just see us as is. Not fat skinny or in shape it's just "oh that's _____." We're all built different. I've seen happy people in all different forms of themselves. If you don't love yourself you have to put in some work and learn to love yourself. Hopefully wanna see yourself be the healthiest you can be.
The same way we feel when our other feelings are largely disregarded.
Personally I think it’s a far bigger problem than is realised. Half the problem may be this, men are and have been slowly over time portrayed as disposable. From a young age, as an example- in modern cartoons, the males are defined as a bit dumb/stupid and the butt of ridicule and jokes, whilst their female counterparts are switched on and doing all the jobs and coming up with ideas and plans. On the flip side there is the other type of animation where the male is always a muscular super hero fighter of some kind. How is this going to manifest in the minds of our young growing up. You’re either going to be a muscular hero or a dumbass being bossed about and it seems nothing in between. I am of course talking extremes here and for a portion of the population none of this is a problem. But as we roll along into the future there will be more marriage and partnership breakups (especially now with the division that seems to be happening globally with covid and internet platform algorithms feeding confirmation bias) and male role models in the home not being able to put opinions across or be immediately available for advice and or comfort and strength and to an extent protection. The problem is it’s been going on in the background unnoticed for years in western culture. There have been a good few decades even generations of people growing up having this fed into their brains from a young age. Maybe the result is men are going to the gym and not necessarily for health reasons, but just to be big or seen as having big guns or whatever, steroids involved etc, to be seen as the superhero type. This then causes more oneupmanship issues as these types tend to look down upon those who aren’t the big gym types. This all feeds into and compounds the problems, and it runs deep into so many other areas of society too. Not every kid or adult has a balanced unbiased or sometimes safe upbringing.
Example (I can only speak from personal experience) I have a thirteen year old son who has anxiety issues not for any reason we can be sure of at least. He’s relatively tall, not a bad looking kid, not overweight, we’ve tried to keep him fit all through his life and fed him the right food, but he is now all clunky and ungainly in the way he moves, I appreciate all kids go through this stage in development, I’m not an idiot. But if you’d seen it for yourself you would see there seems to be more to it than the normal physical developmental stage. He has lost all his confidence and all we can see is just purely out of self consciousness. We’re not sure if he’s been ridiculed by someone or a group at some point, personally or trolled online. Or if it’s just a phase. But we’ve always tried to give him the foundations to be a strong level headed individual. We have spoken to him about this and given him time and options in the kindest way possible but he tells us that there’s no bullying or suchlike going on, I can only take his word and I do believe that he would tell us if there was. Personally speaking, I think there is a lot more at play here not only for my son, but for the young male society as a whole. There are going to be people out there reading this probably thinking, ‘ hey man up ‘ etc. To those I say this. I consider myself a fair and just man, kind and understanding. I am a black belt in a martial art. I and two others run our own club. My son was a member for a while but chose to leave, which I don’t have a problem with. I see kids, adults, boys and girls of all ages come and go to our club on a weekly basis. The girls are generally so much more confident. Not all but some of the boys struggle and crumble especially under periodic examination conditions, more often than the girls. You can tell from the parents sometimes how the kids are going to be. Sometimes you can’t. But there is definitely a difference generally across the dynamic. Something in the culture needs to change and give a more level starting point for all, boys and girls, background, ethnicity and stance.
I absolutely believe in equality for all, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of another group of individuals in society. The benchmark must be the same for everyone. I also appreciate there is no right or wrong answers here but there does need to be some discussion and debate before it’s too late.
Feels like the question was made for me honestly. The biggest issue I see is social media making crazy physiques more viewable. Like freaky people who do copious amounts of steroids exist, but before you only ever really saw them if you were really into bodybuilding. Nowadays there are plenty of guys in their late teens and early twenties that are also on gear and have physiques that look attainable to a novice lifter because their dosages are low and they’re not pounding back 5000+ calories per day to even come close to getting to the size of some of the monsters in men’s open. Steroid use has been a problem for decades now, but social media has exacerbated things by making it much much easier to broadcast your physique and make money doing it. I don’t think it’d be as big of a deal if there was at least transparency with drug use, but that’s not always realistic given the possibility of brands pulling sponsorships over admissions to steroid use in an attempt to keep the brand image squeaky clean. Another issue is the legality. Steroid possession is so heavily prosecuted in places like South Korea that a lot of IFBB pros from there will fervently deny steroid use to keep police from breathing down their necks all the time.
The reason this particular question strikes a strong chord with me is I was in a similar boat. I fluctuated between the high end of overweight and the low end of obese all throughout high school and was routinely bullied for both my weight and my height. Eventually I got into bodybuilding after having already done strength training for 2 years during the football offseason. You start looking up to all these guys you see online and wonder why your progress isn’t matching up to theirs and eventually find yourself in the wonderful world of the dozens of different PEDs that are widely available if you know where to look. I started using steroids when I was 20. Granted, by that point I was interested in trying my hand at an amateur show and wanted to get a good few cycles in before I aged out of juniors. At that time I wasn’t interested in looking like a fitness model and was deep into bodybuilding as a competition instead. Still a wire degree of body dysmorphia that results from it, but that’s sorta just what happens when you partake in a sport where the only thing that matters is how you look. Even some of the greats like Arnold would cry after having just won a show because they didn’t think their physique was good enough. As s***ty of a thing as it is to say, steroids are just par for the course in certain instances. “Natural” bodybuilding shows are a joke and the top guys are all just running stuff with a short half life to avoid pissing hot. Any competitive sport where money is involved is also rife with drug use. Guys in college looking to get drafted or guys playing professionally are all using. Hell, even female athletes take steroids. Steroid use is an inevitable consequence of wanting to try your hand at even just attempting to compete at the top level. Do I think your average Joe who doesn’t know a lick about steroids should be pinning their cheeks with mystery drugs to try and solve their body image issues? No. Do I wish the FDA would hurry the hell up and give SARMs the same drug classification as anabolic steroids so that they weren’t as disgustingly accessible to young teenagers? Of course. But I also don’t think that steroid use with the express purpose of competing in some sort of sport is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that a lot of people who start using are woefully uninformed and do so in an attempt to look better because they’re under the impression that tren will magically melt stomach fat and give them 20 inch arms.
I'm really spit balling, I'll warn none of this is exactly backed up by numbers but does reflect my honest opinion.
I guess there's a few things.
One is that traditionally men haven't felt pressured to conform to body standards like women have. Now, that changed sometime in the 80s and now there's tons of action stars that are chemically enhanced.
Two is that I know steroid use is dangerous, but at least that's largely a down the line issue. If you're underweight and anorexic ... you're on the clock, in terms of not dying goes.
Three is that I don't think women judge men on physique as harshly as the other way around. Though alot of us think that way and that's why we start lifting in the first place.
But I don't think we really have an equivalent "body positivity" movement. I don't think any body positivity movement actually underlines health. It's one extreme or validating obesity. Actual work towards functionality and a good standard of living is sort of scarce.
And also, seeing Ronnie Coleman in a wheelchair at 40 sort of crushed me a bit, and so do the Westside Barbell folks who have messed up joints and multiple surgeries. But I think alot of men like to work towards something and be validated for that work, myself included. These folks seem not to mind being in extreme pain and working though it and taking years off their lives very much. I sort of get it. I once accidentally took half the skin off my shin playing sports and if you made me pick between throwing alcohol on that while yelling into a towel or ugh ... "being brave and emotionally vulnerable" ... I'll probably ask you to pass the towel and alcohol over please.
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