YOUR STORIES: Body Dysmorphia In The Metal Scene

A few months ago, Jacob McCrone submitted a story about how a game helped him overcome depression. Now he is writing for Rock Out Stand Out, he has researched into body dysmorphia amongst men in the metal scene and has written a piece. Here is what he found out.

I was at Bloodstock a few years ago, watching TWISTED SISTER and I turned to a friend and made a comment along the lines of “Dee Snider is giving me body image issues”. I didn’t realise it at the time but I sort of had a point.

“Dee is 64, I’m 27 and I’m the one who looks like a sack of raw brains with my shirt off…”

Fast forward to this year, I start worrying about my hairline and whether it was receding to the point where I was spending hours looking in the mirror with my phone open looking for signs of male pattern baldness. So, after asking for public opinion on Facebook and a quick chat with a few friends, I realised that it must be a pretty common fear amongst a subculture that is, in part, characterised by the men in it having long hair and that’s probably the tip of the body dysmorphia iceberg. So, how common are these issues amongst our chosen family?

First let me say that we metalheads are a pretty cheerful group in general, a 2015 study concluded that Metal fans, regardless of genre, tend to be happier than fans of other genres of music*. And a further 2019 study by the fine folks over at Macquarie University’s music lab concluded of death metal that:

The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment,” said Prof Thompson. “And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience – that’s an amazing thing.“**

But with that said, we are as susceptible as any other human when it comes to problems with our body images. According to mentalhealth.org.uk some causes include***:

  • Relationships
  • Media displaying idealised body types
  • Other people’s opinion on our bodies
  • Gender
  • Cultural differences

I asked a few people to find out what their experience of the condition was like. To preserve their anonymity I’ll be making up names from song titles and the guitarist associated with them.

I’m writing an article about body dysmorphia in the metal scene. Do you have anything you want to say?

Raining Hanneman: Sure bro I often look at myself in a mirror and try to get rid of my belly by going down the gym. When I finish my 3 workouts, I feel and look no different and I have even reduced my insulin dose. Even though it gets me down, I don’t let it get worse by doing nothing. I ask people what they do and they give good advice about particular exercises to get rid of it. Yet I still feel no slimmer and it makes you wonder if it’s a genetic flaw I have because mine was a fat bastard who didn’t exercise and so was his father. I refuse to become anything like him and I just try and fight it the best way I can without endangering my health which I don’t.

Dimebag’s Holiday: Well I went through a rough time in my twenties. This was due to the fact that I was so skinny and ill looking but what I saw wasn’t. I used to eat and throw up my food due to being disgusted with what I saw and disgusted for allowing myself to eat. It’s why all my hair fell out and it made me very very ill. I still feel like it to a degree everyday, I feel guilty when I eat. I feel I’m making no progress in the weight loss, even though I’ve lost seven stone I just am always conscious of what i look like. If I see my self in the mirror on a bad day I’ll obsess about it

Do you feel as though it’s been helped or hindered by your association with the scene?

RH: Yeah it does help with the metal scene because if I didn’t have the music, I would have a really shit workout playlist when I go to the gym and nothing hinders it as the only thing that would stop me is myself. When I wake up in agony from aches or not being bothered, I say to myself ‘ you don’t want to become a fat bastard like your father do you?’ I also walk two miles there and back every day in the week, the thing makes it more pleasurable is the music I found or the music that others have recommended

Do you find that the scene is a lot more accepting than the general public?

RH: Yeah I do, not just through music taste but through physical appearance or disability. I mean when we’re at Bloodstock, everyone looks out for me whether it’s diabetic related or if it’s issues with my leg.

DH: Most definitely, metal was always an escape. When I was listening to it, I always felt better or it distracted my mind. I feel that when I’m writing or listening to metal that is what is important at that time. The people also seem more excepting of different looking people especially the older generation or metal heads

I’ve definitely experienced that myself. The general public seem a lot more likely to point out the visible differences between you and others, I hear the same jokes about my height and hair everyday at work I think I’ve only heard them a few times away at festivals.

I reached out to a friend and while she was unable to put into words her experience with dysmorphia, she did say this to anyone experiencing the same problem: 

“You are perfect expressing your personality in your own way.”

Words: Jacob McCrone

*https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/08/metal-fans-turn-out-to-be-happier-than-everyone-else
**https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47543875
***https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/exec-summary


If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with body dysmorphia, here are some useful websites below:

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation – Information and resources for people experiencing BDD, their families and professionals.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – Produces guidelines on best practice in health care, including recommended treatments for BDD.

MIND The Mental Health Charity – Gives help and support to anyone experiencing mental health issues.

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