More than 200,000 Americans have reported and been diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder or Body Dysmorphia (BDD).
BDD is a chronic mental health disorder where an individual hyper-focuses on a physical flaw, whether real or imagined. Someone living with BDD will find themselves exhibiting obsessive compulsive behaviors regarding their appearance, often spending hours a day worrying about the way they look.
Those with BDD feel so ashamed of their own appearance that they do not want to be seen. Sometimes, people with BDD will spend thousands of dollars to “fix” their perceived flaw and yet never feeling satisfied. It affects the way they interact with others and causes great distress to those with BDD.
BDD can affect boys and girls from as early as 6 years old and may continue for years or be life long. BDD is most of the time closely linked with an individual’s body image and self-esteem.
This week, kfor.com published an article describing a man’s struggles with body dysmorhpia, which led to further issues like bulimia and anorexia and suicidal thoughts. In the article the man, Brian Cuban, states that he felt stigma against getting help because “eating disorders are considered a ‘women’s issue’”.
This is idea that men do not experience BDD and other associated body image disorders is a huge problem today. Even while Googling treatment facilities for BDD, most of the descriptions cover only women, sticking to female pronouns like she/her.
According to one study, 43% of men are unsatisfied with their overall appearance, making men just as susceptible to body image disorders as women. A study from 1997 revealed that while women with BDD focused mostly on breasts and legs, men focused highly on genitals, height, and excessive body hair. It has been 18 years since this study was released and it has been further revealed that those with BDD can focus on any part of their body. Below is a quote from another study from the same year:
“ Although men were as likely as women to seek nonpsychiatric medical and surgical treatment, women were more likely to receive such care. Men, however, were as likely as women to have cosmetic surgery. Although the clinical features of BDD appear remarkably similar in women and men, there are some differences, some of which reflect those found in the general population, suggesting that cultural norms and values may influence the content of BDD symptoms.”
This news is still relevant today and the research surrounding BDD in men is lacking. As a culture, we must create an open and inclusive space where everyone feels comfortable to seek help. This begins by acknowledging that we have a problem and by making visible paths to healing, such as therapy, support groups, and spaces for open communication.