Male Adolescent: View of Negative Body Image and Problems with Anorexia

American Society is all about one’s physical appearance. We as people always try to present our best selves, however, this can be a hindrance. For example, with our standards to be fit and beautiful, this has led to people having low self-esteem, even our youth as well has suffered. Not only teenaged girls but boys as well are having negative body image which has then resulted in eating disorders. The topic at hand I’ll be discussing is teenage boys suffering from negative body image, defining what disorders result and how they occur. Additionally, I will be discussing how harmful it can be for their health and mental state, but there is a solution to all of this.

But what is body image and what does it mean? Everyone has a view of their body image whether it be good or bad, it's defined as a person's perception of their physical self along with their thoughts as well as their feelings. Meaning, how the person feels and views their body, usually, it's divided into 4 parts, one is how you see your body, how you feel, how you think specifically cognitively, and how you engage with socially with the image in mind. With sight, it's just how your eyes view your body though it's not correct most of the time as you may see yourself overweight or under when that may not be true. As for feel, it’s how you feel about your body through its shape and weight and how satisfied or dissatisfied you are. With respect for thought, it is just how you view it cognitively, and finally, with engaging if you have a negative body image as the male teenagers described above, they tend to stay away from others or feel awful. As such with a negative body image, it can greatly impact our behaviors and actions which can lead to eating disorders and other problems.

But what disorders could impact teenage boys? When people hear eating disorders, they only think of girls suffering and while that is true that girls suffer, this also applies to boys, not only with anorexia but disorders such as muscle dysmorphia. Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which the person loses an excessive amount of weight and has a negative view of body image. Furthermore, the person with this disorder tries to take in as little food as possible by purging or exercising a lot to lose whatever they ate. While it is prevalent in women, men also can suffer as well. Both will experience symptoms like weight loss, refusal to eat, will feel tired and weak, denies hunger, and an intense fear of gaining weight even if they don’t appear to be so. Not only that, but people will experience hair loss, dry skin, and muscle weakness due to not eating enough and getting the proper nutrition needed. According to the Journal of Mental Health Consoling, 1 million males at least suffer anorexia yearly. Now with anorexia, it is true that females are more prevalent in suffering from this disorder as only 5% to 10% are males going through with it. The reason why is possibly due to the stigma that females only suffer then males and is either underreported or misdiagnosed. Now, another disorder that affects teenage boys as well is muscle dysmorphia.

While anorexia focuses on trying to lose weight and become as slim as possible, muscle dysmorphia is the opposite of that. Muscle dysmorphia or bigorexia is a disorder where the person is obsessed with building muscles and 'bulking' up but in an unhealthy manner. Now, this disorder may sound fine as your simply exercise and eat but that’s not the case. Male teenagers spend all their time and energy in a gym with no room for anything else and may even go so far to take drugs like steroids or supplements to achieve the desired body. While they may be getting bigger, they still see themselves as small and not perfect and will continue never being satisfied. Some symptoms are the person has a very bad image of their body, excessive weightlifting, special diets which may not be nutritional, they check their body out all the time at the mirror and substance abuse.

Looking closely, we ask why do they suffer, what leads to these adolescents from having a negative body image? Well, media especially is one reason as it’s a big influencer on teenagers and how they act. Even more, the media presents an unattainable physique through movies, celebrities, and magazines promoting how to get abs quick or how to get ladies, each saying you must be fit, and strong. This can hugely impact teenage boys into having unrealistic expectations and obsessing over their flaws. Furthermore, in a study about “1 and 3 teen males say social media makes them feel more self-conscious about their appearance”. With social media, people post tweets or photos about how great their life is especially showing off their bodies, boys especially will post photos of their bodies to show progress which can cause other male teens to feel flawed and have low self-esteem. Not only can media be a huge contributor to negative body image so can peers.

In high school, teenagers are all about trying to look good which is caused by other peers to look good whether it be through bullying or peer pressure. Within school, male teens will feel pressure to fit in within their group and will harm their body image. Additionally, with teens each person has different maturation rates and how their body builds muscle, this may make them feel insecure as their other peers appear to be better and more attractive. Furthermore, about 25% were teased and bullied by other peers for their weight and appearance. Even so, peers will pressure one another to the ideal body type as they don't want to be friends with someone fat or unattractive. For teens, it's all about looking good and trying to fit in and be accepted within their group and society. But with negative body image, there can be harmful effects to them.

As mentioned before, these eating disorders along with negative body image can put these teenagers in danger. For example, with teenagers trying to gain muscle, many of the protein powders and dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and this means there may be possibly dangerous ingredients which could have bad aftermath. Even more, teenagers who fail to achieve building muscle will turn to drugs such as steroids usually without informing their doctor's permission. Using steroids can harm the body, especially within teens as their still growing and developing. Steroids, in general, are drugs that are a copy of the male sex hormone which is testosterone which accelerates muscle growth, but the side effects outnumber the pros. When teens take them, they'll experience negative side effects like 'fertility problems, impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver abnormalities”. Even more, they also may develop breast tissue and their testes will shrink while for girls they have menstrual irregularities and facial hair. Furthermore, male teens who take them also develop mood swings and their behavior is more aggressive which can heavily influence their social life. As such, their social life will plummet and taking steroids will not do any justice.

Furthermore, with anorexia, it can seriously endanger their life. With lowering your calorie intake you’re not only getting the essential nutrients to function but also slowly forcing the body into starvation, and the heart to fail. Additionally, the person will get dizzy, faint, and will not be able to sleep properly which is essential for male teens as they are developing still. As for muscle dysmorphia, one study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology tested male adolescents using a negative affect scale. Within the scale, it had 10 single words to choose from such as anxious, distressed, and so on. Within the finding, about 87 % of the participants had shown depression along with anxiety, most felt unhappy about their bodies. Furthermore, teens with the disorder not only spend most of their time within the gym but they also do an excessive amount of exercise and lifting. It may not sound bad as it just exercises but the body needs to rest when overworked and when teens keep lifting and working out this can lead to an injury if done incorrectly and may even tear a muscle which will greatly reduce the chance of muscles. Even more, they will keep comparing themselves to others which would make their mental states worse and increase depression, additionally, they aren't able to enjoy most things and keep their focus on their body in an obsessive manner. With disorders like these along with a negative body image, this hurts them and their mental health to the point where they may even have suicidal urges as the stress is too much to bear, especially for a teenager.

This is why it's important to teach them good nutrition, and positive body image and even integrate programs at school to help not only male adolescents but others as well. For example, one program found within an elementary school teaches kids not only how to eat healthily but also how to love their bodies. It featured 11 lessons about good body image, knowing your body and its biology of it, and so on. While this program is aimed at kids it can easily be changed a bit and be introduced to high schoolers, especially male teenagers. With offering these programs at school these teens will not only learn how to accept their body but also learn how to work with it and love it. While teens can learn how to eat healthy by being in health and bio those classes don't provide a lot of information then the programs mentioned above would. Furthermore, it would be more open and allow all students than those who only take health to better themselves.

Even parents can be informed about what disorders their child is experiencing and how to know the warning signs. Not only can school programs be of help but so can parent intervention. By educating parents on how to be a good role model and eating healthier eating it can lead to presenting a positive body image. It can help parents know good nutrition, recognize if their child is experiencing any eating disorders and not only help the children but parents as well. It will then allow these teens to be able to better themselves and have proper nutrition not only for them but for their parents as well. With parents being informed they can understand their children better and can help live healthier lives alongside them. Parents should also inform their children on how the media can portray unrealistic standards by using photoshop and other editing programs. As mentioned before media can play a big role in triggering these disorders in general as many people’s lives revolve around the media. Parents should be teaching children, the difference between real and fake and how the perfect body does not exist. Parents can also be informed on substance abuse like steroids as many teens with muscle dysmorphia rely on these to gain more muscle. This way not only would parents watch out for the signs of an eating disorder or notice negative body image but also potential signs of abuse. With this in mind not only will these teenagers get the help they need but their parents also will be well informed and benefit as well.

Even so, sometimes these efforts aren’t enough which is why therapy can also be a good intervention to encourage positive body image. Many types of therpy can help like cognitive-behavioral, etc but the best I believe would be body image therapy. Body image therapy focuses on how the persons view their body as a defect or bad and try to change that. Not only can it be used individually but also include a group as well. Garner states within the book that the therapist set a format where there would be eight groups each consisting of two hours and eight people in each. In addition, the groups are diverse with a wide range of different ages, races, overweight or underweight, and more. This way the group feels more diverse and no bias is presented. Within the therapy, patients are asked to make a journal about their development history divided into different parts of their life like childhood all the way up to their present self. Within the entry, they described their body during each developmental period and how they felt. One thing to remember is this type of therapy is not about changing one’s appearance but their view of their body image. It's important to accept their bodies and understand that flaws done define you as a whole. In addition, when negative thoughts come in its best to combat that with positive compliments like how you look nice today or “my friends compliment me today”. With therapy, not only is it a good intervention but also a good way for teens to know other teens as well suffer even if they don’t appear to be so.

Many people forgot that male teenagers can also suffer from not only negative body image but eating disorders such as anorexia. People always tend to think only females suffer and while that is true, in today's society we shouldn't exclude males. Even so, it's still possible for them to not only have them but also to help them. By informing others and having these programs we not only just help them but allow them to not be ashamed to open up. So rather than just try to present our best selves in appearance to others, we should teach them to present their best healthy selves both mentally and physically. Its important to know the warning signs if their experiencing an eating disorder or even negative body image. Furthermore, schools and parents should try to help these teens and understand that males also can suffer greatly just as females. By teaching parents and children healthy eating and loving your body, it will greatly help with their physical health along with mental health. Even therapy also can be used to help the child be better is none of the above work. With therapy on positive body image, it can also help the child love their body and view it positively. It’s important to know that even if someone has a good body, they should think so as well and not view themselves as a flaw.


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07 July 2022
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