Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) affects people of all ages, genders, and sexualities. BDD is not uncommon, and is equally prevalent among both males and females. BDD occurs when one compares themselves to the Hollywood body image standard, and believe they are defective because they look differently than the models featured on billboards, in magazines, and on television. BDD often causes cognitive uneasiness that can include excessive focus on one’s appearance, low self-esteem, and high levels of social anxiety. One group of people that is largely affected by Body Dysmorphic Disorder is gay males.
Growing up as a gay male is difficult in today’s society, as gay males face discrimination, harassment, and even the possibility of parental rejection. Though society has in large become more accepting of homosexuality over the past few decades, these social barriers still exist for gay men growing up in today’s world. Oftentimes, young gay males look to the media for role models and see unrealistic images of the male body that they idealize and strive to resemble. Body Dysmorphic Disorder occurs when the gay males become dissatisfied with themselves because they do not resemble their Hollywood role models.
Effects of BDD
For gay men, being affected with BDD can lead to obsession with obtaining muscle, low body fat, six pack abdominals, nice hair, and an “attractive” face. This obsession with body image can have dangerous consequences, including, but not limited to the following:
- Eating disorders. Though commonly believed to be a woman’s issue, eating disorders exist commonly amongst men. As new media capable of spreading body image standards to the masses has emerged, eating disorders have increased rapidly. According to recent data, 1 in 10 eating disorders now belongs to a male. However, males are less likely to be diagnosed by physicians with an eating disorder due to the stereotypical feminine nature of eating disorders.
- Depression. Many males who are constantly presented with images of the Hollywood body type begin to hate themselves. When males are constantly trying their hardest to exercise and diet and fail to obtain the ideal body type they see in the media, they become frustrated with themselves and often question their self worth. This lack of self confidence, and resulting self-destructive behavior is extremely dangerous as it can lead to depression.
- Risky sexual behavior. Many men who feel unlovable because they do not live up the media’s depiction of beauty find themselves engaging in risky sexual behavior. Often unprotected, this risky sexual behavior can lead to the contraction of HIV and other dangerous sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Because the gay community is much smaller than the heterosexual community, it is more often difficult for gay males to find romantic partners. With the increasing pressure of the media, many gay males who are obsessed with their own body image only date people who are also obsessed with how they look, making it hard to break the cycle. A recent study found that gay men and heterosexual women have the most negative body image, while lesbians and heterosexual men are the most comfortable. Straight women have a larger pool of male suitors, so it more likely that they will find a male partner who will love and accept her the way she is, helping to reduce BDD. However, in today’s society it has become increasingly difficult to find gay males who do not judge other based on what the media depicts others should look like. Unfortunately, it is rare to see a gay male with a gym-toned body dating someone who is average in appearance.
Hope for the Future
However, there is hope for a brighter, healthier future. The most important thing one can do to help oneself overcome body image issues, including BDD, is to become comfortable with oneself. This means improving one’s self esteem; embracing the positive qualities of oneself, believing in your own worth, accepting that everyone has flaws, and that no one, not even the models depicted in the media, are perfect. It’s important not to try to please others, but to please oneself. Once one is happy with oneself, it will just be a matter of time before love and happiness are permanently integrated into one’s life, with body image issue such as BDD failing to exist.
If you or someone you know are experiencing issues with body image there are many resources that can help:
- Cappel, Larry. “Why Gay Men Hate Their Bodies, Too [EXCERPT].” YourTango. N.p., 22 Jan. 2013. Web.
- “Males and Eating Disorders.” ANAD. N.p., n.d. Web.
Last Updated: 15 February 2013.