“Body image concerns are not just a feminine issue. Boys and men struggle with distorted body image too, and some who feel they are unable to achieve ‘perfection’ are really suffering and may be taking drastic measures,” says Aaron Blashill, PhD, staff psychologist in the MGH Behavioral Medicine Service and lead author of two new studies published on the subject in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity.
In the first study, researchers looked at body distortions and found that teenage boys who viewed themselves as too skinny but were actually of average weight or heavier were more likely to experience depressive symptoms such as feeling sad and hopeless, as well as thinking about and even attempting suicide.
In the second study, investigators focused on perceived body weight and found boys who viewed themselves as underweight were not only more likely to be depressed but also were at an increased risk of being bullied or using steroids.
“Teenage girls tend to internalize and strive for a thin appearance, whereas teenage boys tend to emphasize a more muscular body type. Unfortunately, these concerns in men are sometimes chalked up to vanity, and many may not seek out treatment,” Blashill says. “However, this is a serious issue and the potential effects are troubling. There is help available for both sexes in the form of cognitive behavior therapy and other treatments.”
For information on therapies to help manage body image concerns, call the MGH Psychiatry Outpatient Triage Line at 617-724-7792.
Read more articles from the 02/28/14 Hotline issue.