BDD is a condition we associate with women. Images in the media persistently tell women that they are not attractive enough and could never hope to be. Your legs aren’t long enough, you’re not pretty enough, not slim enough. Not enough, not enough, not enough. This is what straight men want – this magazine should know because it is run by women and gay men (which is amusing in itself that women would rather listen to other women and gay men on what straight men like but that’s a whole other blog post). From the available media, mental health resources and hell… even Google Images we would believe that BDD is something exclusive to women.
In the course of looking for an appropriate image for this post, I found that 99.999999% of images on BDD pages were of women and the content was aimed at women. Even the NHS page on BDD which is gender-neutral in its content features a woman as the page’s image. All of the images I did find tended to link to spam sites for body building and hair replacement therapies (which was why my site was suspended for a few days as I inadvertently linked to one – eventually I found this one at HuffPo)
BDD is a growing problem for men and a recent report has shown that 43% of the men surveyed were unhappy with some aspect of their appearance. A clinical study showed that BDD was just as common in men as in women. Men were just as likely to seek help for BDD but women were far more likely to receive treatment of some kind in relation to a BDD diagnosis (therapy or antidepressants).
The only real difference in how it manifests itself. Unsurprisingly, women are far more likely to worry about their weight whereas men were far more likely to worry about their hair loss, their body size and build, and their genitals. I have to wonder whether “body build” in that report is also to do with height. After all, it is still acceptable to ridicule short men.
There is currently an advert in the UK and I can’t for the life of my remember what it is for. If I find the video I will post it but basically, a woman goes on a date, meets a rather good looking man in a bar. She smiles when she sees that he is handsome… and then he climbs down off the bar stool. He is about 9″ shorter than her and her face drops. It appears there is nothing worse than dating a man shorter than you are? Now imagine this: man walks into a bar, sees a pretty blonde girl smiling at him and he thinks this is his date. But she is actually staring into space and his actual date is the overweight yet attractive girl at the bar. She walks over to him and his face drops. Is this amusing?
We ridicule short men and label them with “Jack Russell Syndrome” but we never consider that men with the “Jack Russell Syndrome” might feel just as hurt at the constant ridicule of their height as overweight women do. At least overweight women can lose weight. A short man cannot spontaneously add an extra 2″ to his height to fit what the media has decided will make him attractive. I am 5’8″, not short but I acknowledge that I am below the average male height in the western world of 5’10”. It has never been a problem for me despite that I have been through BDD fairly recently.
I have had issues with my weight in the past, even though I am now the lightest and slimmest I have been in over 20 years. It isn’t a problem but I do want to lose a little more. I have been told I have a “very sexy shape” by several women *blushes profusely* including my ex-wife who still maintains that my body shape is still my most attractive physical feature. Conventionally, I am stocky with broad shoulders and the “V” shape common to rugby players and swimmers (see Will Carling, right for a close approximation of my shape – broad shoulders, heavy set frame and short, stocky legs). I wouldn’t suit being too slim.
No, my main issue was feeling I was ugly. In my younger days, I had a reason for being convinced of that. I had no luck with girls when I was younger and when girl I fancied told me I was ugly, that was merely confirmation of something I suspected. A couple of years later, a girl I considered at the very least an acquaintance laughed in my face when I confessed to having a crush on her. Whenever I passed her after that she got giggly with her friends. We never spoke again.
Men have traditionally taken little notice of the media but it seems that the bombardment of six packs in things such as the Diet Coke Break adverts and images such as and “tall, dark and rugged” as the ideal attractive male is having its effect.