What You Should Know About Men and Negative Body Image
How to love yourself (and your body) when stress and anxiety hit.
It’s not just women who face cultural pressure to conform to a physical ideal. Anxiety, stress, and unrealistic media messaging (we’re looking at you, social media) all contribute to body image issues in men, too. While strides have been made to help women cope with these pressures, men are often left without adequate support or understanding regarding this critical mental health issue.
If you’ve been struggling to accept your body, you’re not alone. Recent research shows that pandemic-related stress has significantly increased body dissatisfaction in men. A recent meta-analysis further shows that male body image issues are also strongly linked to anxiety and depression. While women often feel pressure to lose weight, men with negative body image issues often feel that they need to look more muscular. Also, if you’re chronically unhappy with how your body looks, chances are you’re not seeing a clear picture of yourself. Body dysmorphia in men and male teens has nearly tripled in the past 25 years, and it leads to an exaggerated or distorted perception of how your body looks or doesn’t.
About Eating Disorders + Exercise
Male body image issues can lead to eating disorders and exercise addiction, and many experts think that eating disorders in men are likely underreported due to stigma. If you work out even when you’re sick or injured, feel anxious if you can’t exercise, or hide your workouts from loved ones so they don’t realize how much you’re hitting the weights, chances are you need some professional support to get to the root of your mental health issues.
Also, if you regularly binge eat or excessively restrict your food intake, seek guidance from a therapist who specializes in male eating disorders.
Men Seeking Therapy
Look, we get that you’ve got a lot of pressure on you to stay strong––for yourself, family, colleagues, and community. Statistics show that only about one-third of people in therapy in the United States are men, even as men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide.
We don’t want to see you go it alone like that. You work hard to support the people around you, and you deserve support when mental health issues hit. Seeking help is a sign of courage and strength. It’s not easy to face your struggles, but doing so with the right support can help you overcome your challenges for the better.
Hope in Dark Times
It’s possible to overcome negative body image, and mental health issues are often manageable with adequate help. The relationship between men and body image is more complex than ever, but affordable resources have never been more widely accessible.
If you’re struggling with your body image or your relationship to food, reach out. Therapy, support groups, and supportive friends and family can be a lifeline as you work to heal. The process may not be easy, but achieving greater well-being and overall health is worth it in the end.
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