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Weight gain worries can push male teenagers to drugs

Posted on Jan 15 2014 | IANS

London, Jan 15 : Sometimes thinking too much about oneself can be dangerous too. A study has revealed that male teenagers, perceiving themselves as too thin or too fat despite having perfect weight, are more likely to develop depression.

The research by the American Psychological Association also found that teens, believing they are underweight and bullied because of it, are more likely to use steroids, Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

The lead researcher of the study believes that his work proves how distorted body image is prevalent amongst boys as well as girls, but often gets overlooked.

"These studies highlight the often under-reported issue of distorted body image among adolescent boys," said Aaron Blashill, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, about his two pieces of research.

"Teenage girls tend to internalise and strive for a thin appearance, whereas teenage boys tend to emphasise a more muscular body type."

"We found that some of these boys who feel they are unable to achieve that often unattainable image are suffering and may be taking drastic measures."

The study observed 2,139 boys, aged 16, for 13 years.

They were asked to rate their current weight ranging from "very underweight" to "very overweight", which researchers compared to the participants' Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Those, perceiving themselves as far too skinny despite an average weight or higher, were the ones with the highest level of depressive symptoms.

The second study found that 4 per cent of the participants, who inaccurately perceived themselves as underweight, admitted to using steroids.

"Unfortunately, there is little evidence-based research on effective therapies for steroid use among adolescent boys," the researcher said.

"However, cognitive-behavioural therapy has proven to be effective for body image concerns and could be helpful for boys considering using or already using steroids."

He advised clinicians, working with depressed teenage boys who feel they are being bullied for their underweight appearance, should be mindful of young boys' steroid use.

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