Heartthrob actor and Twilight star, Robert Pattinson (or RPatz) has just popped up in the press saying he suffers from anxiety and struggles with his looks (click here). These days, the media focus as much attention on the naked male physique, as they do on the female form. And, so men are suffering from similar psychological problems, only they’re doing less about it.
“Sometimes, I’m weird about my looks,” says Pattinson. But, if one of the fittest men on the planet is worried, how are the other guys doing? Everywhere we look, in magazines and on billboards, the guys, just like the girls are sold the image of the ‘perfect’ physique.
Strictly Come Dancing regularly boasts male dancers going topless to boost their votes and in Arrow (a superhero series on Sky), the ripped male lead spends at least five minutes per episode gratuitously showing off his well-toned physique whilst working out in his underground lair to a voice-over narration.
And just think how much topless male totty has boosted the sales of Diet Coke over the years.
To the delight of girls and gay guys everywhere, the objectification of the male body continues unabated. As a result, men are also catching up with women in how much money they spend on grooming, makeup and cosmetic surgery.
But the amount of TV time and column inches devoted to topless chiselled beefcake comes with a price. Men are now suffering the same insecurities about their bodies that women did, and suffering from the same kinds of problems usually thought solely a female domain – we’re talking worries about looks and body shape and eating disorders such as binge eating and bulimia, as well as suffering from anxiety and depression.
However, it seems that psychological problems in men are hard for us to spot and recent research suggests that men are twice as likely to have conditions such as depression written off as nothing more than a low mood.
One study showed that, due in part to the assumption that men are ‘tough,’ both sexes are less likely to spot the telltale signs of depression.
The doctor who conducted the study, said, “In our society men are led to believe they don’t suffer from depression. Dominant views of masculinity stress toughness and strength.”
So, the problem is that men tend to deny having depression (or any other emotional problems) in the first place.
As a result, stories such as RPatz’s image anxiety rarely make it into the news; in fact we rarely read stories of vulnerable men at all yet, according to the National Office of Statistics, men commit 75 per cent of all UK suicides.
The problem isn’t just the media however, but men themselves.
Just as women are twice as likely to visit the doctor, so too are they more likely to seek out the services of a therapist.
In fact, in another study, more than one in three young men said they would smash something up, rather than talk about their feelings.
However, seeking help when you have a problem (whether it be physical or emotional) isn’t a sign of weakness.
Repeat, talking about your problems is not a sign of weakness.
It takes strength to admit you’re in trouble and, as for seeking help, well that’s just common sense.
On a very practical front, the first step to solving a problem is recognising there is one in the first place.
And while there are various therapies out there, cognitive behaviour therapy is one of the more hands-on and practical of approaches. It’s very much concerned with looking at where you are, where you want to be, and giving you the tools to help you get there.
While A CBT therapist won’t let you ‘smash things up’ as part of therapy, if you’re lucky, they might just give you a stress ball to squeeze as you talk.