Adolescent Boys and Body Image

Contributor: Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 30 books.

boy body imageSocial pressures, especially those related to body image, often peak during adolescence. Teenage bodies are wrought with hormonal and physical changes causing an upheaval of emotions and insecurities. Moreover, these various pubescent changes happen for different people at different time.

This out-of-synch shifting during the adolescent years causes many teenagers to feel left out, left behind, and out of place.

As a society, we are relatively familiar with the pressures felt by adolescent females. The over-abundance of thin yet perfectly curvy (photo-shopped) pictures of celebrities and supermodels set unrealistic standards for young girls. Young men, however, are also increasing burdened with social pressures causing negative body image and low self-esteem.

Body Image Issues Are Rising in Boys

In fact, the issue of adolescent boys and body image is currently on the rise. Within the last fifteen years, unrealistic images of bare-chested men with chiseled abs and muscles are becoming the norm in advertisements and pop culture photos.

Similar to the treatment of the female body, these advertisements and celebrity photos of men are also being photo-shopped to digitally enhance these often-unattainable “masculine” features. Furthermore, the increase of cell phone use, social media and photo sharing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have created an interactive forum for young men to be even more bombarded what society deems as the “masculine ideal.”

How Boys Are Concerned About Body Image

Young Attractive Loving Couple Hugging in the Park.While some adolescent boys, like many girls, just seek to achieve a certain threshold of thinness, the majority of boys that are concerned about their physical appearance seek to increase muscle mass and perceived masculinity.

A recent study by JAMA Pediatrics1 studied a large sampling of boys between the ages of 12 and 18. This study reveals that nearly 18 percent of the boys were highly concerned about their weight, physique, and masculinity. Among this 18 percent, many of the boys turned to supplements, growth hormone derivatives, or anabolic steroids to achieve their desired physique. Some of these boys also had developed unhealthy habits of disordered eating such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Many Men Are Missing a Diagnosis

Many health professionals and organizations estimate that 1 in every 10 individuals2 that are diagnosed with an eating disorder is male. However, most of these health professionals and organizations also agree that these numbers don’t necessarily provide an accurate count of men with eating disorders, because many of the men are never professionally diagnosed.

This lack of diagnoses is most likely due to a false perception that eating disorders are female-only issues, and consequently many men either do not recognize the symptoms themselves or feel uncomfortable seeking treatment. A newer study estimates3 that approximately 1 in every 4 eating disorder suffers is male.

The Additional Risks Beyond an Eating Disorder

family holding handsIn addition to the physical and mental ailments associated with eating disorders and body dysmorphia among men, these adolescent males are also at a significantly higher risk for other issues. The poor body image and lack of self-esteem these boys and young men experience make them more susceptible to depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide.

The adolescent years for both genders are formative. As technology and societal pressures continue to shift and intensify, it’s critical that the dialog, awareness, and support related to healthy body image for adolescent boys stay active and strong.

About the Author:

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

In what ways have you been supported or have you supported other adolescent boys in regards to body image?



Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
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