Men and Distorted Body Images

Since the creation of the Barbie doll, women have become increasingly obsessed about their looks. Today, men are also becoming more obsessed and feeling pressure to acquire a lean and muscular look. The G.I. Joe doll is one example of why the obsession is becoming more common. In 1964, if G.I. Joe were an actual man, he would have a 44-inch (112 centimeter) chest and 12-inch (30 centimeter) biceps. Today, if the G.I. Joe Extreme doll were an actual man, he would have a 55-inch (140 centimeter) chest and 27-inch (69 centimeter) biceps. His biceps would be almost the same size as his waist.

We should not be surprised, then, that body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)-preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance or an excessive concern for a slight physical defect-is on the rise, even in men. Men with BDD feel socially anxious, believing that everyone around them is seeing their flaws and judging their appearance. Muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of BDD, affects men who are obsessed with thoughts that they are too small and do not have enough muscle mass. Many of these men spend extraordinary hours at the gym and take dangerous steroids and other drugs to bulk up. As one man commented, "Why should I be Clark Kent when I can be Superman?" (Olivardia 2002).

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