ADONIS COMPLEX: IS YOUR SON AT RISK?
Tania K. Cowling
A growing number of teenage boys are so obsessed with their bodies;
worrying that their muscles aren┴t big enough or their bodies aren┴t
lean enough. This affects their health, schoolwork, and personal relationships.
Boys may be secretly suffering from body-image problems. It┴s a trend
that could get worse because young preteens and teens today are constantly
bombarded with images of muscular, half-naked men on the covers of
magazines and in advertising inside.
a recently published book, The Adonis Complex by Harrison Pope, M.D.,
Katherine Phillips, M.D. and Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, three leading
psychologists say more and more male teens are tying their self-worth
to their body image. ╦They are obsessed with their bodies.Ë Girls aren┴t the only ones
who suffer from eating disorders and an obsession with their appearance.
Pope, a Harvard Medical School psychology professor, has identified
males who fit into this pattern that can begin in adolescence or younger
as the ╦Adonis Complex.Ë He explains that this condition is generated
by unrealistic appearance ideals and pressure to achieve physical
perfection. It is stressed that this complex can lead to compulsive
and dangerous dieting, exercise, weight-lifting, steroid and supplement
abuse, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, an obsession with minor body
flaws that can result in poor self-esteem and depression. Unfortunately
boys receive the message that muscles equal masculinity. Pope┴s study
with teen boys confirms that a ╦majority of boys chose a body
ideal that most men could attain only with steroids.Ë This impractical goal puts
young boys at risk for negative body image, unhealthy food and exercise
habits, depression and low self-esteem.
muscle building is quite normal. Not all boys will develop the extreme
Adonis Complex. Here are some signs and symptoms to look for:
that isn┴t required for athletic training at school and infringes
on other important activities
in sports for the sole purpose of improving appearance instead of the love of the
preoccupation with a model appearance like the muscular men in the media
use of large amounts of dietary supplements (such as creatine or protein powder) or the
use of steroids (such as ephedrine or androstenedione).
Rapid fluctuations in weight
to lose weight, such as fasting, extreme diets, laxatives, and diuretics
amounts of time
and/or money spent on grooming activities and products
of never looking good enough
need to be constantly reassured that he ╦looks good.Ë
to limit social activities or negatively affecting school or job performance
having all or part of his body seen by others, for example in the
locker room at school
an effort to maintain positive, healthy attitudes and behaviors. Children learn from the
things you say and do. Exercise moderately and eat for health reasons.
Accept your own body with its strengths and flaws
- .Educate yourself and seek more information
about the Adonis Complex so that you understand what your son may
be struggling with. Don┴t ignore the warning signságet help early.
Consult with pediatricians, and school counselors for additional
- Never criticize or tease a boy about his appearance.
This could trigger the Adonis Complex or make it worse. Drawing
attention to appearance only reinforces this unhealthy obsession.
- Educate your child about the dangers of
steroids, weight-loss drugs, and other risky ways of changing appearance.
Explain how magazine photos are usually airbrushed and computer-altered
to achieve the perfect look.
- Build self-esteem by building your son┴s
on inner qualities rather than appearance. Reinforce his talents,
skills, and personal characteristics that make him a valuable person.