Can boys have body image issues?

Yes, boys can have body image issues, and it's a growing issue. While most of the conversation on body image issues centers around girls, there is increasing social pressure on boys to conform to an idealized male body image as well. Men's magazines and media focus on professional athletes have combined to give boys unrealistic expectations of how their bodies should develop. In addition, boys' social status can often be directly connected to their relationship relative to the local "alpha" male; so they can also feel great social pressure to take on an alpha role.

So while boys can suffer from body image issues, the ways they deal with controlling their bodies can be very different from girls. Boys can have eating disorders commonly associated with body image issues, such as anorexia or bulimia; however, boys are generally more concerned with increasing their muscle mass, rather than losing weight. As a result, teen boys suffering from a body image issue will more likely start working out excessively or take steroids and food supplements. Engaging in these practices not only risks a boy's physical health, but can also lead to depression and emotional troubles. If a boy's dissatisfaction with his body is severe enough, it can also lead him to become socially withdrawn.

Parents can help their son avoid body image issues by being sensitive to the rate of their son's development. Teasing boys (or girls) about their bodies or how they compare to the development of their peers can have a devastating effect on their self-esteem. Parents can be supportive of their boys by helping them manage their expectations of what the average teen boy looks like, placing media ads in context, and watching what their teens eat and how they work out. Since many boys are also on sports teams, coaches can also play a valuable role in keeping boys happy with their physical development.




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