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Mental health matters

Body dysmorphia

BODY DISMORPHIA | MENRUS.CO.UKDefinitions vary a little but, in a nutshell, body dysmorphia (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance This results in compulsive behaviours, routines and steps to hide, fix, or change it.

A person will focus intensely on their appearance/ body image; eg: checking the mirror repeatedly,  grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for hours a day. Their perceived flaw and repetitive behaviours cause distress, impacting on their ability to function in daily life, including work and friends.

A person may work out at the gym obsessively or seek cosmetic procedures to try to 'correct' or 'fix' what they believe is 'wrong'. They may feel temporary satisfaction, or a reduction in distress, afterwards but often the anxiety returns and they may resume searching for new and other ways to fix their perceived flaw(s).

Body dysmorphia, muscle dysmorphia, and bigorexia

The terms 'body dysmorphia', muscle dysmorphia' and 'bigorexia' are often interchanged but bigorexia is where people feel they have insufficient/ inadequate musculature so need to become bigger or more muscular, regardless of their actual size. Muscle dysmorphia is most common among bodybuilders. Body dysmorphia exists in both gay and straight worlds. 

Body dysmorphia: it's complicated

There is no disguising that aspects of the gay community hold absurdly high standards as to what stacks up as being attractive, and sexually attractive, or not. It's also a currency used by the media which perpetuates unrealistic notions as to what men and gay men should look like. It's changing but at a snail's pace.

For many, shredded and ripped bods, with junk squeezed into itty bitty swimwear, are unattainable, and many gay men struggle to meet these standards. It can be even more distressing if the implication (or underlying message) is that you won't find a man or been seen as attractive if you don't look like this or that.

The reasons why body dysmorphia exists is complicated but, as a starting point, Al Jennings said astutely in his June 2020 article for The Gay UK:

"I've never really felt happy with the way I’ve looked. I know that being the size I am is putting me at a disadvantage within the gay community. As gay men, we are obsessed with the way we look, and how we present ourselves to the wider community. Most young gay men’s introduction to sex and relationships is from gay porn. All the models and stars of gay porn are toned, with a great six-pack, we see them going at it like rabbits – for young impressionable people, that is what they see as the norm, so they then feel like they have to have that. They have to have the perfect body, and the perfect sex lives."

Why gay loneliness and body dysmorphia may be epidemics we may never find a cure for | The Gay UK | 26 Jun 2020

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) | MIND
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) | NHS
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) | Psych Scene Hub 
Body dysmorphic disorder | Wikipedia

Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies | PDF | Mental Health Foundation | 2019
Muscle dysmorphia and body image in men | BDD Foundation
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and muscle dysmorphia particularly in males | PDF |  BDD Foundation

Hungry for words: creative approaches to start the conversation about eating disorders in men | University of Nottingham
About boys and men | First Steps
iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr, a geosocial networking application designed for men who have sex with men | Anderson, Joel R, Holland, Elise, Koc, Yasin and Haslam, Nick | University of Sussex | 2018
Eating disorders in males | National Centre for Eating Disorders
 Men struggle with body image too | Lacuna Voices
Body image: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature | Government Equalities Office | 2013

 

No more Mr Muscle: the activists championing body confidence for men | The Guardian | 25 Oct 2020
Why gay loneliness and body dysmorphia may be epidemics we may never find a cure for | The Gay UK | 26 Jun 2020
What it’s like to have muscle dysmorphia during lockdown | GQ | 18 May 2020
Too many gay men still hate their bodies | VICE | 8 Dec 2017
Men, eating disorders, and why gender matters | Huff Post | 20 Aug 2017
So, men are obsessed with their bodies. Is that so bad? | The Guardian | 31 Jan 2012

Opening up about my body dysmorphia | Tristan Simpson | 19 Jul 2020 | 12m 51s
Body dysmorphia in the gay community | US | Underdogs Collective | 11 Mar 2020 | 2m 53s
From body dysmorphia to professional nude model | Perk | 5 Oct 2018 | 11m 20s
Gay men and body image | Matthew J. Dempsey | 30 May 2014 | 5m 34s

How gay men compare and despair | Matthew J. Dempsey | 7 Aug 2013 | 4m 33s
Shame and vulnerability | Matthew J. Dempsey | 10 Sep 2013 | 5m 53s
Validation | Matthew J. Dempsey | 24 May 2012 | 5m 53s
5 ways to be a happy homo | Matthew J. Dempsey | 28 Feb 2018 | 6m 06s

Muscle dysmorphia: when you’re never big enough | ABC Science | 19 Nov 2019 | 6m 36s
Bigorexia: never buff enough | BBC Newsbeat | 21 Sep 2015 | 12m 48s

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