Male body image disorders are as common as body image disorders in women. Body image refers to how an individual sees their body and how they feel about the way they look. Body image disorders in men can take the form of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia or body dysmorphic disorder characterized by an obsession with an imagined defect, often muscularity. Since these men do not easily accept that they require medical help, it is very difficult to get them into the right treatment. Let’s look at the most effective treatments for body image disorders in men.
The most commonly used treatment for body image disorders in men is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a psychotherapeutic approach which can either be administered in individual sessions with a therapist or in a group setting.
In this approach, the patient first comes up with ideas about how he developed this negative body image. A diary may be maintained to ascertain events that particularly give rise to high levels of body dissatisfaction. The patient is taught relaxation training to help control the high anxiety levels associated with body image dissatisfaction. Identifying and changing the errors in body image perception is also a part of the whole therapy process. Compulsive behaviors, such as excessive exercising, are also identified and the person learns strategies to reduce these negative and often self-harming behaviors.
In short, CBT for this disorder (which is considered to be a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder) helps the patient identify the false beliefs that he has about his appearance and replace them with healthier and positive beliefs.
As far as treatment of body image disorders in men with medications is concerned, there aren’t any that are specifically used. However, antidepressants and serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are often used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression that these men may experience. Body image disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder are characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors and these medications work on the serotonin levels in the brain to help control obsessions and mood swings.
If you are someone who prefers going for alternative forms of treatment for body image disorders, there are certain herbal remedies and treatments that you can also try. St. John’s wort is a herb that can be used to treat the depressed feelings often associated with body dysmorphic disorders. Patients can also benefit from aromatherapy since it helps them stay relaxed and calm. Learning and practicing yoga on a daily basis is another alternative to be considered. The practice of yogic poses and meditation techniques can help the individual get rid of the unhealthy perceptions he has about his body, and to develop a new respect for himself, and help him to stay calmer and be more relaxed.
Male body image disorders, especially muscle dysmorphia, are on the rise around the world and this is because men do not want to be perceived as feminine or weak. These men have a distorted view of their own body but they do not usually see themselves as having any problem that requires treatment. However, delaying treatment will only make the problem worse and prevent the individual from leading a healthy and productive life.
Vanderbilt University: Cognitive Behavior Therapy as a Treatment for Body Image Dissatisfaction
Recognition and Treatment of Muscle Dysmorphia and Related Body Image Disorders. J Athl Train. 2005 Oct–Dec; 40(4): 352–359.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: Body dysmorphic disorder