Teenage Boys Are Affected By Body Image Issues Way More Than You Think

body image teenage boys

Eating disorders and body image issues are a serious problem, but they are not just a women’s issue, even though they are often reported that way. There’s still the unfortunate idea that it’s normal for girls to worry about their appearances, but that boys should be off doing sports and occupied with man-things and not worrying about how they look to the people around them. Obviously that is not true, and boys worry about their bodies and skin and whether or not they are attractive just like girls do.

A new study from the American Psychological Association followed 2,139 16-year-old boys for 13 years and found that distorted body image was a real problem for many of them. Boys who have a healthy body weight but perceive themselves as being too skinny or too fat are more likely to be depressed.

“These studies highlight the often under-reported issue of distorted body image among adolescent boys,” said Aaron Blashill, PhD, staff psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. “Teenage girls tend to internalise and strive for a thin appearance, whereas teenage boys tend to emphasise a more muscular body type. We found that some of these boys who feel they are unable to achieve that often unattainable image are suffering and may be taking drastic measures.”

Boys who identified themselves as being way too skinny, but who were actually average weight or above, demonstrated the highest level of depressive symptoms, according to the Daily Mail. In another study, 4 percent of boys who inaccurately thought they were underweight admitted to using steroids to try to fix what they thought was a problem.

It’s difficult to read about these problems and not feel an aching pity for these boys. Body dysmorphia is a real problem for many boys and men and should not be discounted or dismissed or treated as a “phase” they’ll grow out of when they “man up.” Unrealistic standards of beauty hurt all of us, whether they’re pressuring us to have a thigh gap or a rippling six-pack.

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    • Lindsey Conklin

      This makes me sad. It’s easy to forget that men also suffer body image, for not being manly enough, (“wimpy”) or too thin and not strong. I wish somehow we (as a society) could stop putting so much emphasis on beauty standards

    • Chuck

      Women just refuse to believe its not only a female issue.

      • http://www.geekosystem.com/ Victoria McNally

        You know a woman wrote this article, right?

      • Chuck

        Reminding women that males are affected.

      • http://www.geekosystem.com/ Victoria McNally

        My point was that categorizing ALL women as thinking the same thing isn’t helpful.

        Yes, the article is right and this issue is not brought up enough, and the men who are affected by these problems need to feel like they can talk about it in a safe environment. And yeah, women exist in the same society that men exist in, and it’s probably very easy for some of us to forget that the way we were taught to view gender roles can affect men badly as well.

        But you’re making it not about what these men are going through but instead what you think women are doing wrong. This article — and everyone else in this comment section — is saying “this sucks and we need to do something about it,” and YOU’RE saying “women don’t want to do anything about it.” Which, again, is not helpful.

      • Ember1

        It is kind of like rape. It happens to men too, but not to the same degree/with the same frequency. It shouldn’t be ignored, and yet at the same time they can’t be dealt with the same way because the issues tied to them are different and the sheer volume is different. Mostly that women are dealing with being told to be small/weak and silent and men are dealing with being told to be big/strong and loud.

        Wonder what could work for both…. hmm, maybe if we didn’t have such rigid ideas of what is masculine and what is feminine….

      • Chuck

        The problem…it has been brought up by men and dismissed by mostly women. Saying men don’t know what it’s like to be shamed about their body. Now that a woman writes it…people see the light. My point…women need to stop comparing and contrast when men point out that we are affected about the same issues as women. Most comment from women it’s a man’s world…women have it worst. So, I stand behind my argument about women refused to except its a human problem, not only women.

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    • Amanda

      My best friend, who is a guy, suffers greatly from severe clinical depression and a lot of it stems from his poor self-image. He has struggled with body issues since he was a child. He used to be a hefty kid and thanks to people picking on him (both kids and adults), he now has major body image issues. He is now tall and slender, but still thinks of himself as fat and hides his body by wearing clothes that are often 3 sizes too big. It is really hard to see him go through these struggles, especially since he feels like he has no one he can talk to about it, since he is supposed to “man up” and men don’t talk about these things with one another. Instead he just suffers in silence and only gets worse, not better, because he feels like he can’t speak out. This is a serious issue. I know he isn’t the only guy out there who feels like this. We need to step up and let guys know that it’s ok for them to express these feelings and to talk about it with one another. Because someone who suffers in silence, suffers alone, and that never does anyone any good.

    • Andrea

      I dated a guy who he and his best friend from high school were overweight until their 20s.. it was always strange, and definitely sad, to see them struggle with body image and treat food in a way that would be called out as an eating disorder within seconds if it were a girl.