This past week I found something online that very deeply unnerved me. Now before you ignore this, think, “oh it’s just someone talking about how offended they are at the world” and tell me to get over it, I would like to share some information with you.
Body Dismorphic Disorder (BDD), a clinical mental disorder, is defined by Merrian-Webster as a “… preoccupation with an imagined … physical defect of one’s body to the point of causing significant stress or behavioral impairment in several areas”. This basically means that, no matter how you truly look to others, every time you look in the mirror, you see yourself as bigger than you are, or in a typical male case, physically smaller than you are (i.e. weaker).
A study conducted on this disorder found that 2.4% of the population tested showed diagnosable criteria for BDD, of that percentage, men and women were represented almost equally (Koran, Abujaoude, Large, Serpe, 2008). The difference between males and females who showed criteria for this disorder was only 0.3%, which may or may not have been effected by the fact that there were significantly higher female respondents.
Now that I have gotten the nitty-gritty facts out in the open, let’s talk about why I am so upset by the above picture. Let’s get one thing straight first. I am not offended because I believe that men and women go through the same thing and therefore a picture should not be posted about it. Never would I ever pass up an opportunity to increase awareness of mental disorders. I am offended because, while BDD is prevalent among women, I will not deny, it is almost equally as prevalent among men, however this picture seems to argue otherwise. While men and women do tend to notice and obsess over different things (women obsess, on average, more over weight and men obsessing, on average, more over skin and muscle definition) there is a clear dissatisfaction among both sexes.
What I specifically want to talk about however is the BDD diagnoses in men that are going unnoticed due to pictures like this hovering on the Internet. Because there is little to no representation of BDD in males, it oftentimes goes unnoticed, slips between the cracks, men who find out they have this disorder are often ashamed due to it’s stigma of being a “girl problem” when in reality it is a “people problem”.
The thing is that when BDD goes untreated, if the aspect is focused on weight, it quickly turns into Anorexia Nervosa (otherwise knows as just Anorexia), a topic I have written on previously. Anorexia, having the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness, is essentially the starvation of oneself by not eating (Sullivan, 1995). It is more prevalent among women however due to the fact that BDD in women tends to primarily focus more on weight rather than facial complexion or muscle mass.
What I am trying to say is that BDD should be taken extremely seriously in the case of both women and men. It should not be something that, when diagnosed, men are ashamed of, which is a difficult stigma to shake with pictures such as this being deemed “so true” or “hilarious” and shared so many times over. I urge you to see this picture for it’s true worth, not as a funny commentary on life, but as an insult to many men out there who struggle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and who are too ashamed to pursue treatment.