We have all heard of the girl struggling with her weight. She fixates on one aspect of her body that she dislikes intensely to the point that, without addressing it at every possible opportunity, she cannot live her life. Obsessing over a certain undesirable quality on one’s body leads to the unhealthy need to rapidly lose weight, and keep it off, we all know as anorexia. Nothing ever seems to be enough with the beast. It never settles, never makes the sufferer feel content with her appearance.
But what about if we flip the situation; what about bigorexia? The condition of body dysmorphia when men with normal muscle mass believe that they are too frail, or not bulky enough. Research shows that the results can be devastating. From psychological suffering – depression – to physical consequences – injecting steroids for accelerated muscle growth.
A recent study by Sydney University has found that men with body dysmorphic image issues are four times more likely than females with an eating disorder to go undiagnosed. Four times! As a curvy female I suffer from body image issues at least once a day: is my hair just so, is my make-up okay, because I feel like I cannot leave the house with a bare face, how’s my skin looking? We have all got the little pesky demons that tug on our insides and make us question who we are, and how others will perceive us. Body issues are common but fixating on them to the point of radical measures is frightening.
So once the sufferer has developed the condition, we do not think that diagnosis should be too hard. We always think that if there’s something wrong with a person, health wise, then it must be visible. With anorexia, yes, there are physical changes that can make the person’s surrounding support system realise that there is something off and then seek help in a safe and secure environment.
However, what if the physical changes that the person undergoes are labelled by society as the ultimate peak of masculinity and Adonis-like beauty, what then?
The studies continues to say that men with the condition are more likely to feel depressed because they feel stigmatised due to suffering from an inherently female condition, or so they believe.
‘The additional stigma towards men is that they are less masculine by virtue of suffering from a stereotypically female problem,” the authors say in the study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Big muscles, being ripped, looking flawless, being the most desirable guy in the room. The allure is understandable, but if the physical appearance of females suffering from anorexia alerts surrounding people to the condition and encourages them to help, then the media has brought the problem forward enough for people to be aware of the condition and its consequences. The desire for slender perfection fades when bones protrude from bodies and physical exertion is a daily struggle.
But the focus on the male side of things is falling behind at the moment. When asking around even I notice that not many people seem to know that the condition exists. The bottom line being that more should be done to alert people to the dangers of the condition. Men still have the perfect muscly figure that they see in their heads when they kill themselves at the gym, without realising that there’s a line past which their health gym dedication becomes unhealthy.
If women have a hard enough time getting diagnosed with the awareness that is already out there, then men suffer four times as much. No one should have to suffer alone, or worse off, not know that they are suffering because they are not aware that they have taken it one step too far.
Never having help or not realising that there’s something wrong would be the scariest situation imaginable. Feeling trapped and not being able to escape the cycle of one’s own actions would, most likely, lead to the person going to even more radical measures to feel better, to feel ‘normal.’ If they can’t get help though, the battle for ‘normal’ may end in tears.
Conditions are not sexist, but all inclusive. They won’t ignore you just because of gender, so we should not propagate that a particular type of individual is more likely to suffer from a certain condition, if the same is true for other people.
The Australian study found that extreme dieting and body purging increased more rapidly among males than females in the decade between 1998 and 2008. In addition, the proportion of needle exchange services that reported that steroids were the last drug injected more than tripled from 2 per cent to 7 per cent from 2007-2012.
People go to such extreme lengths?
Extreme dieting increased in men faster than in women?
Surprised reactions are welcome because now you know. The problem is not imaginary, and people who feel the villain eating at them can go to extreme lengths, the problem needs to be addressed, people need to know.