Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Men and Body Image Current Issues and Counseling Implications

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Men and Body Image Current Issues and Counseling Implications

Article excerpt

Body image is defined as "perceptions of and attitudes toward one's own physical appearance" (Phillips & deMan, 2010, p. 171). Historically, issues with body image were usually associated with women. However, it is apparent that men also experience body image issues related to their weight, body shape, and appearance, which can lead to detrimental physical and emotional consequences (Harvey & Robinson, 2003; Maida & Armstrong, 2005; Schneider, Cockcroft, & Hook, 2008). Grieve, Truba, and Bowersox (2009) estimated that there are millions of men who experience some level of body dissatisfaction. Approximately 10%-15% of eating disorder diagnoses are assigned to men (Carlat, Camargo, & Herzog, 1997), and 2.2% of males meet the criteria for body dysmorphic disorder (Koran, Abujaoude, Large, & Serpe, 2008). However, men may experience and manifest body image issues differently than women because of a variety of factors. This can make assessment, diagnosis, and intervention with men challenging for counselors who do not have specific knowledge of men's tendencies regarding body image issues.

Sociocultural and media representations of the ideal male body have changed and become more visible, causing men to think more critically about their bodies. The modern ideal male body image focuses on being muscular, toned, lean, physically fit, masculine, young, powerful, self-confident, and sexually desirable (Filiault, 2007; Kimmel & Mahalik, 2004; Schneider et al., 2008; Silva, 2006; Slevin, 2008). This ideal body image receives global attention, and men who internalize this ideal body image may experience body image dissatisfaction/distress (BID) at various levels (Grieve et al., 2009). Additionally, men and male adolescents feel "more pressure now to conform to a particular body type" (McCabe & McGreevy, 2010, p. 1008). Therefore, issues related to body image now occur more often among males, with a variety of labels and diagnoses assigned to the symptoms presented. This includes formal Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) diagnoses such as body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders, non-DSM-IV-TR diagnoses like muscle dysmorphia, and problematic symptoms (e.g., body shame). However, Brennen, Lalonde, and Bain (2010) noted the utility of these types of distinctions, viewing "body image as a continuum ranging from no body image disturbance to extreme body image disturbance" (p. 130).

Researchers also have shown differences in meaning and reactions to body image among various populations. For example, McCabe and McGreevy (2010) claimed that men of all ages relate body image less with appearance and more with "function, fitness and health" (p. 1003). On the other hand, Silva (2006) found that younger men were actually trying to enhance their physical image and were more concerned with their shapes (i.e., the way they physically look to others) than with their specific weights. Galli, Reel, Petrie, Greenleaf, and Carter (2011) and Lobera, Cid, Fernandez, and Rios (2011) reported that adolescents and men involved in sports felt pressure to conform to body weight expectations based on the sport being played, rather than concerns about a specific body type or physical appearance.

Culture can also play a role in differentiating issues with body image, but as Ricciardelli, McCabe, Williams, and Thompson (2007) noted, "there is no consistent pattern which summarizes the nature of body image concerns across the different cultures" (p. 582). Although a review of all applicable results is beyond the scope of our article, we present several notable findings here. The results of the most recent National Comorbidity Study (Adolescent Supplement) noted that, whereas White adolescents had the highest rates of anorexia, Hispanics had the highest rates of bulimia (Swanson, Crow, LeGrange, Swendsen, & Merikangas, 2011). …

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