As teenagers grow up, they often carry their body dissatisfaction into maturity, even as the teasing and bullying of high school draws to a close. While adult stress-causing factors are different—work, college, marriage—the learned coping mechanisms remain the same, accounting for psychological distress, eating disorders and depression.
Besides the teasing, bullying and low self-esteem, some people some people suffer from an illness known as body dysmorphia, which causes an insatiable fixation on flaws, whether real or perceived. About 1 in 50 people suffer from body dysmorphia. Those who have the disorder may go to extreme lengths to fix their flaw or simply obsess over it constantly.
A widespread misconception is that women are the only ones affected by body image issues, and though women face more pressure from the media, society and peers to appear a certain way, men can also suffer from the symptoms. About 1 in 3 men suffer from eating disorders. In the U.S. alone, 10 million men will be affected by negative body image at some point in their lives.
“The stigma surrounding self-esteem issues discourages men to openly discuss their issues and others,” said student Salvador Gomez. “Body dissatisfaction amongst men isn’t discussed as much as it should be.”
Since the topic is often taboo, many men won’t seek the treatment they need. In some cases when men do seek help their problems are misdiagnosed due to gender.
Males have been left out of epidemiological studies and treatment trials related to body image. As a result, there is little information on men with image disorders, considering how they make up less than 1% of research to date according to Dr. Stuart Murray, the co-director of The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (NAMED).
By today’s standards, the typical male is supposed to be strong, masculine and unemotional, but men and women alike can endure the hardships of having a negative body image. Like women, men are constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations of the male body and appearance through the media.
Twenty-five years ago body dissatisfaction impacted 15 percent of the male population, unfortunately today that number has risen to 45 percent, the University of Sydney discovered in a recent study.
Body image is ingrained in our minds from an early age. Overcoming negative self-image and disorders associated with it can be quite difficult, but nonetheless possible. Knowing what help is needed as well as what works best is essential to break the toxic cycle of self-hatred.
Some of the best weapons to combat poor body image is to try to avoid negative media influences, recognize unrealistic expectations and surround yourself with positive reinforcing elements.
Having a positive body image may not assure a good physical or mental health, but it can lessen the chance of developing disordered eating patterns, and other illnesses that are a result of poor self-esteem, like depression, anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder.