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Men Have Body Image Issues Too! – ‘It’s just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie’.

The issue of body image is one that has risen in prevalence in today’s society. Pressure to become a perfect version of yourself is a worry that many faces. The positive body image is a rapidly growing movement with ambassadors such as social media personalities like Tess Holiday. This issue has influenced a new standard for beauty in fashion. Recently, France passed a bill to ensure that models used on the runway are within the healthy body mass index (BMI) range. In addition to this legislation, magazines must now declare if they have used photo-shopped images. The unrealistic aesthetics in the media are often commented upon due to their influence on eating habits, especially among young people.

Yes, this change gives us comfort; however, this newly found body confidence has been targeted at women while men are sometime seen to be forgotten. Muscular, Adonis-like images are continually shown as the epitome of masculine beauty. Unlike females, the focus is not becoming thinner but growing bigger and more toned. This coincides with a growing prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder within young males. This dysmorphia has manifested in a plethora of gym-obsessed Instagram and Twitter posts, yet the psychological implications are ignored. Due to the stereotypes placed on men, compulsions are viewed as a way of healthy living. These constraints include spending many hours in the gym, squandering excessive amounts of money on supplements, abnormal eating patterns, or using steroids. Unfortunately, men are traditionally reluctant to seek medical help. Therefore, data collected on male anorexia, bulimia and exercise dependence could be inaccurate and much higher than recorded.

The media reports that more than four in five men (80.7%) talk in ways that promote anxiety about their body image by referring to perceived flaws and imperfections, compared with 75% of women. Similarly, 38% of men would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body – again, a higher proportion than women. Further studies have revealed that some men resort to using laxatives or making themselves sick with 29% thinking about their appearance, at least, five times a day.

All of society is vulnerable to low self-esteem and poor body image, regardless of gender. An open dialogue needs to be had and men in general need to feel comfortable in expressing worry and concern about their wellbeing.

If you are being negatively affected by body image, noticing that you are overly focused on your body, or if you`re developing concerning behaviors, then you aren´t alone and professional help is available.

Treatment often includes a combination of strategies, including self-help. Many people find using self-help materials, such as books or computer programs, helpful in managing their symptoms. Many self-help materials are based on CBT principles, which have been shown to be particularly effective in treating body dysmorphic disorder. To start, speak to someone you trust about the feelings you are experiencing and consider keeping a thought diary to identify patterns of negative thoughts and associated behaviors. You may decide to use self-help materials alongside professional help, or you may use them to develop your own coping strategies.

Consider self-help or support groups, they offer an opportunity to meet up with other people who have body dysmorphic disorder. Going to a self-help group can help you feel less isolated and, at the same time, show how other people have coped with similar feelings and experiences. You can also access peer support groups online. This can be particularly useful if there are times you don’t feel like seeing people face-to-face.

Reach out for professional assistance to overcome your difficulties with a supported manageable approach.

Nikki W is a Clinical Psychotherapist and Life Coach passionate about aiding others to overcome life’s challenges. Visit for more information and follow her on twitter @NikkiWebber2


4 responses on "Men Have Body Image Issues Too! - ‘It’s just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie’."

  1. I agree Kathryn. Traditionally men have always been reserved in coming forward for any medical help which causes the higher rates of late stage diagnosis. The key here is to open a discussion, have this openly talked about and talk about the support that’s out there. If we can get any high profile male role models to talk about this, more the better. Reggie Yates did a great series on BBC 3 called Extreme UK but this needs to be on mainstream channels so guy’s like him can be heard by a larger audience.

    • Hi, Kathryn and Nikki. I fully agree with both of your statements. One of our community members, Kenny, did something of BBC earlier this year about masculinity. It was very vulnerable and with grace. I believe it would be great to have someone like Justin Bieber stepping out and share about his struggle. Bieber is only an example, nut it has to get into the mainstream media. I wonder if the marketing money will disappear if you raise difficult topics n prime time?

  2. This is a great article. However I see one of the biggest obstacles between men and real psychological support (one on one time with a professional) to be a kind of stigma unique to men in our culture: a belief that they should be able to solve this problem on their own. The implication bbeing that requiring professional support, even seeking it out, is a sign of failure.
    Nothing could be further from the truth, or more likely to stall real progress in healing these disorders!

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