It’s natural to want to look your best whenever you can. It’s also understandable when you have something you just don’t like about the way you look. When you look in the mirror, you may think “I wish I had curly hair” or “I wish I had straighter hair.” When you look in the mirror several times an hour and are obsessed about what you perceive as an imperfection, you may have male body dysmorphia.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
A body image disorder, body dysmorphia is characterized by constant and intrusive preoccupation with a slight defect, or an imagined defect, in your appearance. People who have the disorder usually find fault with their skin, hair, nose, stomach, or chest. Even though the imperfection, if it exists, is minor, the individual with body dysmorphia will consider it to be prominent and significant, which will cause them severe emotional distress and challenges with functioning on a daily basis.
People who have body dysmorphic disorder think about their flaws for hours every day and cannot control their negative thoughts about themselves. They won’t believe anyone who tells them they look fine. They live in constant fear that others will notice what they perceive to be their physical flaw.
Under-Recognized and Under-Diagnosed
Body dysmorphia occurs in about 2.5% of males in the US and 2.2% of females. The disorder can affect people of any race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and almost any age. Two-thirds of individuals diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder experience the onset of the disorder before the age of 18.
However, scientific research studies have shown that the disorder is under-recognized and under-diagnosed. Individuals who have male body dysmorphia may not want to talk about their body image concerns, even when the disorder has affected them to the point that it is the reason that they seek mental health treatment.
One study revealed some of the explanations individuals with the disorder offer about why they are hesitant to speak up about it. The study participants said they were too embarrassed, were afraid of being judged negatively, didn’t know there was a treatment for the disorder, didn’t think it was a big problem or didn’t want to know the disorder was a problem, and believed that they were the only ones who had the disorder.
Body Dysmorphia Symptoms
Most people with body dysmorphic disorder perform a compulsive or repetitive behavior in an attempt to hide their flaws. They also constantly try to improve their flaws, even though any relief they find will be temporary. Other symptoms include constantly checking mirrors or avoiding mirrors, camouflaging the area thought to be imperfect with clothing or hats, excessive grooming, excessive exercise, and excessively changing clothes.
A subclass of male body dysmorphia is muscle dysmorphia, which primarily affects men. Even though the individual probably has a build that’s average or more muscular than average, they perceive themselves as less muscular and smaller than they are in reality. Men who lift weights or participates in bodybuilding competitions are more commonly affected by this disorder.
Men with muscle dysmorphia are typically considered to be very muscular by other people, since they routinely engage in activities that build muscles. However, the men themselves will see their bodies as lacking in muscle and even small in comparison with others. A man with this disorder will constantly lift weights, use anabolic steroids or other drugs to enhance their performance, skip social activities so they can spend more time exercising, or avoid social situations that will draw attention to their body, such as swimming.
An eating disorder called orthorexia is also associated with this type of male body dysmorphia. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating healthy foods. These individuals will eat very regimented diets, becoming fixated on choosing the perfect foods to the extent that it will disrupt other areas of their lives.
Mood Disorder Treatment for Men at PACE
If you are experiencing symptoms of male body dysmorphia, it is time to reach out to the professionals at PACE Recovery. Asking for help is a sign of strength and is the first step toward improved mental and physical health. We optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your mental health and any substance use issues you may also have. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.
At PACE, we understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.