Male BDD: The Dilemma Forgotten by Many
Up to 19% of male athletes have an eating disorder or engage in disordered eating. Society is constantly telling men to reach a certain weight or that they aren’t tall enough to play their sport. These pressures can result in seeing themselves a certain way that isn’t discussed often enough, commonly resulting in eating and body dysmorphic disorders.
“I’m on the shorter side, so that does kind of hurt a bit, and I do find myself comparing my body to those of fellow athletes online or in person,” Lucas Diorio (‘25) said.
It’s important for male athletes to also have safe spaces to discuss their mental problems without feeling embarrassed or unheard from their peers.
“Guys especially don’t talk about their body issues with each other, although I’m sure some have them. People just don’t want to hear that,” Kyle Noveras (‘25) said.
Specifically, these body issues frequently consist of a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) known as muscle dysmorphia, sometimes called “bigorexia.”
“I kind of have a body dysmorphia kind of thing where it’s like I look at myself more closely, and look at the points of my body to work on,” Rami Faraji (‘25), said.
The resulting negative impacts commonly generate the need for an outlet, or someone to talk to.
Commonly referred to as a “safe space,” some men find comfort in family members, coaches, or friends.
“Personally, I feel comfortable talking with my family members about these kinds of things, but I know not all men have someone they’re able to turn to,” Jalen Pierre (‘25) said.
Others don’t have this privilege.
“I usually just vent in my notes app. I don’t really have someone I would trust enough to talk about insecurities.” Khalil Hodge (‘25) said.
I don’t really have someone I would trust enough to talk about insecurities.
— Khalil Hodge (‘25)
Agreeing with Hodge, Faraji explains how he believes a lot of men choose to distract themselves rather than finding ways to cope.
“I don’t really have anyone to talk to about these kinds of things. Most guys just want to play video games, hang out, and go to the gym. Just basic ways to get rid of the hate instead of discussing it,” Faraji said.
According to a study done by Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, a professor of the University of West England, one in three men would trade off a year of their life for their ideal body.
Some utilize their desire for physical change, and put it towards creating motivation to see results within themselves, as well as use it as a form of acceptance.
“I feel like the only way girls will want a guy is if they have a six-pack. The idea of that definitely does stress me out sometimes,” Cael Sandberg (‘24) explained.
Whether this need comes from the desire to impress girls or the desire to play their game to the best of their ability, the felt demand often causes severe dips in confidence.
“When I feel confident about myself physically, I tend to perform better. But if I’m not feeling at my best, it is sometimes reflected in my play. Look good, feel good, play good,” soccer captain Joe Liebe (‘23) said.
Look good, feel good, play good,
— Joe Liebe ('23)
Self-assurance proves to be a key factor in achieving success.
“When I’m not confident in my body, I feel like I get in my head more while playing. I always find myself messing up and I don’t always have someone to explain that to,” Lucas Ashworth (‘25) said.
Whether in a positive or negative aspect, mens’ body images have constant effects on their day-to-day lives due to social media.
“I get a lot of guys working out on my TikTok For You Page and I try to turn it into something beneficial. Everytime I watch them I am setting goals for myself and trying to look like them in the future,” Diorio said.
With social media being so prominent in today’s generation’s everyday lives, it’s necessary to address the insecurities of male teens, especially athletes whose main focus is often on their bodies in order to ensure the safety and well being of today’s teens.
“People see other guys at the gym on social media and I think they feel like they have to look like that,” Noveras said.
Many men use the gym as a way to alleviate stress. When feeling a lack of control towards things like romantic relationships, issues with parents, and bad grades, they start working out as an outlet.
“I go to the gym all the time and I think working out definitely helps take my mind off of things, but I can see how to someone that isn’t happy with their body and isn’t seeing progress, it can be hard to be surrounded with people more fit than you,” Dakari Phillips (‘25) said.
Gym goers risk a toxic cycle of going to the gym to block out your surroundings and then finding that your body is becoming the new center of your world. Focusing on one goal or muscle group becomes a fixation, something that goes from healthy to obsession.
“It’s an outlet for some. They’re able to grow mentally and physically and it can be like an escape for them. Personally I’ve gotten better with being confident with myself and my body, but I’ve seen guys with insecurities grow to be obsessed with getting bigger,” Frantz Fulcher (‘24) said.
One of the most vulnerable places to be as a teenager is the locker room. This is a universal truth often discussed with teenage girls, but the same can’t be said for boys of similar ages.
“I see people that go behind a wall or in the bathroom to change because maybe they’re insecure. They’re insecure about their bodies and they’re self-conscious of what other people are gonna do or what other people are gonna think,” Fulcher said.
The locker room environment can cause problems in younger boys, namely freshmen as they compare themselves to older teens.
“I know some of my fellow freshmen get self-conscious when looking at other guys in the locker room. Especially when the upperclassmen are there because they tend to have bigger muscles and be more fit,” Hampton Kwatchey (‘26) said.
With 2.4% of Americans currently suffering from BDD, making men more comfortable with speaking about these topics and providing safe spaces need to be implemented, especially with those showing signs of disorder. To do that, society must begin to be aware of the fact that men go through body image struggles as well.
“Men definitely should discuss their feelings more. I just think it’s important for society as a whole to know that everyone has their own insecurities with their bodies and men need more room to speak about them without feeling discomfort,” Noveras concluded.