Though most people don’t think of their body as “perfect,” they also don’t take their self-criticism to the extreme.
Many of us wish we were thinner or wish our hair was different, but we don’t worry about it too much. Maybe we work out a little extra to try and lose a few pounds or visit a hairstylist to get the look we want, but that’s about it.
For people with body dysmorphia, however, their concern over bodily imperfections is much more consuming and detrimental.
At Sundance Canyon Academy, we understand the importance of developing a healthy body image from childhood into adulthood. Children and teens who develop body dysmorphia are at a greater risk of carrying their unhealthy body image into adulthood. If your teen son is starting to obsess over his appearance, he might benefit from attending a residential treatment center where trained therapists can work with him to develop a healthy lifestyle. Contact us today to find out more about our treatment plans for teen boys with body dysmorphia.
What is body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia is an obsession with correcting an aspect of one’s appearance.
It goes far beyond working out a little extra to lose weight or getting a new hairstyle. Someone who has body dysmorphia will focus on improving one part of their body and obsessively work on it to their detriment. Their idea of “perfection” is unattainable, but they relentlessly pursue it no matter what.
Many teenage girls with body dysmorphia are obsessed with losing weight and being skinny. They are prone to developing eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, and they vigilantly watch their weight. No matter how much weight they lose, though, they never feel like they are skinny enough. This obsession can lead to serious health concerns both in the teen and adult years.
Because eating disorders are more prevalent in girls than in boys, studies have focused more on preventing and treating body dysmorphia in girls. However, body dysmorphia affects teen boys more than you think. It doesn’t tend to affect them in the same way, but it can be just as dangerous.
How does body dysmorphia affect teen boys?
From the time they are little, boys idolize professional athletes and celebrities from action movies. In both cases, the men they see in these roles tend to be larger than life. They’re tall, they’re muscular, and they’re masculine.
Some boys start to develop body dysmorphia when they are young if they associate “being a man” with looking like the men they idolize. From that time on, they start focusing on their appearance to make sure it lines up with their beliefs about manliness.
When body dysmorphia in boys starts in the teen years, it could be related to bullying. If the teens were bullied or were the victim of abuse because they were too small to fight back, they might feel the need to bulk up to prevent future bullying.
Teens with this sort of trauma in their past are more likely to develop mental health problems like body dysmorphia as a way to cope with the violence they experienced.
What are the symptoms of body dysmorphia in teen boys?
Body dysmorphia tends to have different symptoms in teen boys than it does in teen girls. While teen girls tend to try and lose as much weight as they can to stay skinny, teen boys are more likely to try and bulk up and build muscle.
Keep in mind that body dysmorphia is not the same as just wanting to stay in shape or look better to get more dates. You can expect a certain level of vanity from your son as he moves through his teen years. Teens who have body dysmorphia do more than work out, try to eat healthy, and want to dress nicely.
Some symptoms of body dysmorphia in teen boys include:
Restricting their diet (often to high-protein foods and supplements)
Obsessing over their appearance
Regularly comparing their bodies to others
Measuring their muscles multiple times each day
Weighing themselves multiple times each day
Prioritizing workouts over their responsibilities
Getting distressed if they miss a workout
Continuing their workouts even when sick or injured
Working out a lot even though they seem to hate it
Using steroids to bulk up
Teen athletes are at a higher risk of developing body dysmorphia. As teen boys go through puberty and their bodies start to change, they may have certain expectations of what their bodies should look like. If reality does not meet their expectations, or they are not as muscular as some of their peers, they can get down on themselves and obsess over the imperfections.
How to help your son if you suspect they have body dysmorphia
If you think that your teen son might have body dysmorphia, get help from a professional therapist. Remember, the main difference between someone with body dysmorphia and someone who likes exercising is their mindset and whether it becomes unhealthy.
People with body dysmorphia obsess over their appearance and prioritize it above all else. Their workouts can get in the way of responsibilities and healthy living. Because they always think that their body isn’t good enough, teen boys with body dysmorphia are also prone to depression. They have set an unattainable standard for themselves and constantly feel like a failure when they don’t meet it.
If your son has crossed the line from enjoying exercise to obsessing over his appearance, contact us to determine if our residential treatment center could benefit him. Our therapists are trained to help teen boys develop a positive body image and overcome the obsessive hold of body dysmorphia.