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This Is Why Men Are Obsessed With Their Penis Size

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This Is Why Men Are Obsessed With Their Penis Size


Why are some men anxious about their penis size when the size of their penis is normal?

Tori Rodriguez, a writer for, recently interviewed me for a short article, The Obsession with Size(link is external), prompted by a recent article in the British Journal of Urology reporting that most men electing penis enlargement surgery are in fact normally endowed.   Thanks to Ms Rodriguez and to the editors of for permission to publish the original interview that led to the article.

TR: How common is Body Dysmorphic Disorder involving the penis – or as some have called it, Penile Dysmorphic Disorder?

Dr.Snyder: I don’t know of any statistics on this. Anxiety or insecurity about penis size is extremely common in men.  It would be difficult to determine how frequently the more serious condition of penis-focused BDD occurs.  But it’s undoubtedly much rarer.

TR: Do you see many men with this condition?

Dr.Snyder: People with BDD tend to avoid mental health specialists.  Which is not surprising, since part of the psychology of BDD is the conviction that one has an actual physical problem.  It’s much more likely I think that a man with penile BDD will purchase penis enlargement equipment or consult a surgeon than consult someone like me.

TR: Why would a man have “penile dysmorphic disorder,” even when he doesn’t actually have a small penis?

Dr.Snyder: Good question.  The answer, as one of my urology colleagues puts it, has more to do with the “big brain” in a man’s head than with the “little brain” between his legs.  There is an extraordinary diversity of human minds.

TR: What kind of a man would be prone to penile BDD?

Dr.Snyder: Some people seem to have an innate tendency for obsessive thinking.  Why some of these people develop BDD, and others OCD or Anorexia Nervosa is unknown.   Many of these obsessive thinkers also have behaviors (such as compulsions and avoidance behaviors) intended to reduce the distress associated with obsessive thinking.  Unfortunately, over time these behaviors seem to make obsessive thinking worse.

TR: For example?

Dr.Snyder: A man who begins to obsess about the size of his penis may begin to compulsively and repeatedly measure his erections, and to avoid dating because he’s convinced he’ll be humiliated.  Then the whole thing can spiral out of control, until ultimately he’s online studying penis enlargement techniques.

TR: The penis itself doesn’t tolerate all this obsessive self-scrutiny very well, right?

Dr.Snyder: The more obsessively a man worries about his penis, the more likely he’ll develop a sexual dysfunction.  If a man finds himself obsessing about his penis or any aspect of his sexual function, he should get help before he causes himself psychological or physical harm.

TR: How do partners react when a man gets obsessed about the size of his penis?

Dr.Snyder: When a married man comes to see me worried about his penis or his erections, I usually ask to see his wife too.   Often her chief concern is that he’s so obsessively preoccupied with his problem that he’s become a stranger to her in bed.   Women experience such preoccupation as selfish – which in a way it is.

TR: What practical advice would you give to a man who’s gotten obsessed about the size of his penis?

Dr.Snyder: Step back and notice your compulsion and avoidance behaviors.  Notice how often you compulsively masturbate in order to reassure yourself you’re OK.  Or compulsively measure your erection.  Or compulsively surf the net for penis enlargement advice.   Or avoid dating because of fear of humiliation.  See if you can drastically reduce compulsive and avoidance behaviors.

TR: And if a man can’t manage to do this?

Dr.Snyder: Get professional help.    Be forewarned, though.  Most mental health professionals don’t know much about sexual issues.  To find one who does, go online is external) or is external).  Or if you’re in New York, contact me – is external).

Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2011 is external) New York City

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[Stephen Snyder]

Stephen Snyder, M.D., is a sex and couples therapist, psychiatrist, and writer in New York City. He is currently Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He has lectured nationally on topics related to mental health aspects of sexuality--combining the biomedical perspective of a physician and the psychological perspective of a sex therapist. He has been an active member of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research since 1995. He has been a featured lecturer and discussant at the Society’s national meetings, and has served on both its Professional Book Award and its Consumer Book Award committees. Over 25 years of practice in Manhattan as a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and sex and couples therapist, he has worked to develop better treatments for sexual problems-- including integrative treatments that combine medical and psychological approaches. His current major areas of interest include: sexuality and the self; diversity of individuals’ sexual natures; current controversies regarding the “medicalization of sexuality”; and sexual psychology in popular culture (be sure to catch his blogs on Twilight, and on Alvin & The Chipmunks). He lives with his wife and children in New York City.

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