Teen boys and body image

Parents and physicians may initially think of their female children and patients when talking about eating or body image disorders affecting teens, but a new study shows that adolescent males may be just as concerned about their physique. Dr. Jason Yaun, a Le Bonheur pediatrician, tackles this topic below.

How does body image affect adolescent males?
Adolescent males concerned about their physique may engage in dangerous behaviors in attempts to become stronger or lose weight. A study showed that by late adolescence, 7.6 percent of males are extremely focused on wanting more defined muscles. It also showed that 2.5 percent of males had high concerns about thinness.

According to the study, what are risk factors for these populations?
Teens focused on muscle definition are more likely to:

  • Use unhealthy products such as steroids at least monthly to improve their physique
  • Start using drugs
  • Engage in frequent binge drinking

Teens concerned with thinness are more likely to:

  • Experience depressive symptoms
  • Become obese

Why are adolescent male body image disorders sometimes overlooked?
Because most eating disorder assessments do not address muscularity, a substantial number of males with an eating disorder or exhibiting harmful behaviors may be overlooked. Known differences exist between males and females for other psychiatric disorders, and diagnostic criteria may also need to be altered to allow for a difference in eating disorders. Where females may be worried about thinness, males may demonstrate an unhealthy focus on toned and defined muscles.

What are some warning signs of steroid use?

Signs of steroid use to watch for include:

  • Severe acne
  • Wild mood swings
  • Angry or combative behavior
  • Delusions
  • Feelings of invincibility

Anabolic steroids may cause problems with the heart, bones, skin and other organs, so awareness of the warning signs may help to prevent long-term damage.

If you have concerns that your child may be overly concerned about his physique or using unhealthy methods to achieve fitness goals, talk with your child and his physician.