Jul 9, 2020
Apr 25, 2023
Men care about their physical appearance no less than women. They tend to stay silent about their negative body image insecurities and rectify these issues themselves by resorting to extreme dieting or engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviours.
SINGAPORE, July 2020 — Dr Ivan Puah, Medical Director of Amaris B. Clinic, is seeing an increasing number of males seeking treatment for gynecomastia and surgical reduction of localised fat in recent years due to body dissatisfaction. Men, just like women, do care about their physical appearance. A particular study has shown that 95% of young adults are dissatisfied with their bodies in one way or another1. Another research2 meanwhile revealed that images of muscular and good looking men increase their body dissatisfaction.
"I have noticed that amongst the male patients, 20-25% are young adults who have serious body confidence issues. They are shy and unexpressive, often exhibiting signs of no confidence and extremely low esteem. They avoid eye contact and are uncomfortable going shirtless during clinical examinations."
Dr Puah, who has more than 20 years of clinical experience, also cited instances where male patients teared up as they shared the reasons behind their sense of low self-esteem. Societal pressures, media portrayals of lean and muscular guys, being made fun of by their peers for having female-like boobs or going on extreme weight loss measures that leads to emotional roller coasters as a result of being on the heavier side of the scale are some of the common, but alarming and worrying, reasons.
"There is a sense of helplessness in them, and they want to know that you understand and can help them." Studies3, 4 have further substantiated Dr Ivan Puah's observation that men do not share with their peers or family regarding their body insecurities. They also hold off seeking treatments and solutions due to embarrassment.
Dr. Ivan Puah, who has been performing multiple body sculpting procedures such as Gynecomastia Surgery and Vaser Lipo for more than 15 years, has also received psychiatric training at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Singapore.
He shares, "During my training at IMH, I have encountered patients who are referred in for psychological assessment and treatment due to extreme methods of dieting and some, for eating disorders. Many of these are young patients in their teens, with a higher percentage of female than male. Part of managing this group of patients entails counselling, strong emotional support and close health monitoring."
"However, in recent years, I have seen male patients who seek to improve their body appearance resorting to taking diet pills, laxative, going on extreme dieting or excessive exercise without proper nutritional intake. This is a worrying trend." As men are more clammed up about their feelings and insecurities, they tend to take matters into their own hands. Body dissatisfaction has resulted in a high percentage of males with extremely low self-confidence, anti-social behaviour and poor mental health and wellbeing," he added.
Doctors who are providing beauty aesthetics treatments or cosmetic surgeries for male patients seeking treatment to improve their body image and self-confidence need to understand the psychological aspects in play that affect the patients. Their physical state can lead to negative thinking, particularly about themselves.
A majority of these patients, especially those who are seeking treatment for gynecomastia, are suffering from discomfort, pain, and also degrees of embarrassment or low self-confidence. Chances are, they have not spoken to anyone about their predicament. Realising the issue and seeking help is a huge first step, and as such, doctors play an essential role in relieving not only a patient's physical concern but more fundamentally, in truly understanding the devastating effects such conditions can have on an individual's mental wellbeing. A doctor has to be observant in listening and empathic in communication so that they can indeed be in a position to address their patients' concerns effectively.