T Nation

Muscle Dysmorphia: Anxiety & Depression

I was doing some research on the subject and came across this article. What are your thoughts on this guys?

http://www.concernedcounseling.com/Communities/Eating_Disorders/men_dysmorphia_2.asp

""The body image distortion of men with “muscle dysmorphia” is strikingly analogous to those of women and men with anorexia nervosa. Some people colloquially refer to muscle dysmorphia as “bigorexia nervosa” or “reverse anorexia.” People with anorexia nervosa see themselves as fat when they’re actually too thin or emaciated; people with muscle dysmorphia feel ashamed of looking too small when they’re actually big. Men who experience these distortions describe them as extremely painful resulting in a need to exercise every day, feelings of acute shame about their body image, and lifetime histories of anxiety and depression.

Men with muscle dysmorphia often risk physical self-destruction by persisting in compulsive exercising despite pain and injuries, or continue on ultra low-fat high-protein diets even when they are desperately hungry. Many take dangerous anabolic steroids and other drugs to bulk up, all because they think they don’t look good enough.

These men’s nagging or tormenting worries are rarely relieved by increasing their bodybuilding. Persistent worrying may be termed psychologically as obsessions or obsessional thinking. People are driven to repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in response to these obsessions. According to Pope, Phillips & Olivardia (2000) some men may be aware that their obsessional beliefs are irrational and that their compulsive behaviors are futile. Even with this knowledge they are unable to stop their driven and often self-destructive behaviors. The feelings of shame and endless self-criticism appear to take over any rational thoughts often forcing men to chose catering to muscle obsessions rather than allowing them to lead more fulfilled lives.

HealthyPlace.com Audio
The Adonis Complex

From GI Joe to pro wrestling, to magazines to movies, everywhere we look, we see muscular, fit men. Millions of men and boys are feeling pressured to achieve the impossible goal of physical perfection. Men are spending countless hours in the gym, young boys are taking food supplements and diet aids, and many are using dangerous anabolic steroids and black market equivalents to push the limits of their physiques. More and more men are suffering from eating disorders; a recent study found that 40% of Americans who go on compulsive eating sprees are men. Our guests are Dr. Michael J. Pertschuck, the medical director of the eating disorders program at Friends Hospital and Dr. Harrison G. Pope, one of the authors of “The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession”

Listen with Real Player.

Dysmorphia is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects a person’s perception of their body image. Most men who have this psychological illness are rather muscular when compared to the rest of the population, but they none-the-less wear baggy clothes and refuse to take their shirts off in public out of fear of being ridiculed because of their (anticipated) small size. It can be quite serious and needs to be treated. Dysmorphia might not have as direct an impact on a man’s health as anorexia, but its repercussions can still have grave effects on a person’s life. Some of the symptoms can cause irreparable damage to the body and the negative impact it can have on one’s social life can take years to fix.

Men who have this illness will spend countless hours at the gym every day lifting weights obsessively. They will always check to see if they gained mass and constantly complain that they are too thin or too small and need to bulk up.

They will be fixated on eating the right things and adjust their entire life around gaining mass. It might sound like virtually every guy at the gym, but dysmorphia is an extreme case of bodybuilding on the brain.

Men with this condition exaggerate every aspect of bodybuilding to the point of delusion. Eating the right food will not simply be a conviction; it’s going to be a phobia. Time spent away from the gym will cause anxiety and stress, and life outside the gym will suffer.

Social life, job opportunities, work, dates, and anything else that can interfere with time spent at the gym will take a backseat. In extreme cases of dysmorphia, men will over-workout until they damage their muscles, sometimes permanently.

Although the sources of muscle obsessions and weight-lifting compulsions are not known with any certainty three arenas are suspected. First there almost certainly is a genetic, biologically based component. In other words people may inherit a predisposition to developing obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The second component is psychological suggesting that obsessive and compulsive behavior may result in part from one’s experiences growing up, such as being teased. The final and quite possibly the most powerful source may be the idea that society plays a powerful and increasing role, by constantly broadcasting messages that “real men” have big muscles. These factors lay the groundwork for muscle dysmorphia and other forms of the Adonis Complex in adulthood."

I think it is pretty rare.

A very interesting book is Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction.

An interesting insight from the book: Very few people have “bigorexia.” Most guys who think they are too small, are, in fact, too small.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
A very interesting book is Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction.

An interesting insight from the book: Very few people have “bigorexia.” Most guys who think they are too small, are, in fact, too small.[/quote]

It has been years since the I read the book, but I think here’s what happened…

The author wanted to find guys with what people call bixorexia. He posted a bunch of ads in the gym saying: “Do others consider you big, while you feel too small? Let’s talk.”

A bunch of dweebs showed up. None of them would be considered “big.”

So he wrote a better ad: “Can you squat 400 pounds? Do you nonetheless feel small? Let’s talk.” Now the big boys finally showed up and he was able to get to work.

my names eric…and from the contents of this article…i have a reversed eating disorder

I’m sure there are instances where people may feel this way and go over the top. But, there’s a pretty fine line between being “sick” according to this bigorexia stuff and being dedicated enough to make a drastic change in your body and life, in my opinion.

I may not have bigorexia but I definitely don’t feel the size that I am. Granted, i’m not huge, but I think i’m bigger than normal. However, I don’t feel that way. And most times, if someone is taller than me, I automatically feel smaller than them. Even if they would be rail thin, i’d still feel smaller than them.

I’d say most people on this site who are big have this. I don’t know if it’s a true “condition”, but I have all those “symptoms” and more.

First I thought 210 would be good, then 230, then 250. I have a feeling it’s not going to end anytime soon. I don’t really think this is a disorder, I think it’s a mental game. Every day is a challenge.

To me, the better question is are you willing to be complacent with how you look at 25, 30, 35?

Monopoly

[quote]chrisrodx wrote:
I was doing some research on the subject and came across this article. What are your thoughts on this guys?

[/quote]

I think anyone who is actually like this is a small minority. I don’t “feel” as big as people react to me as being. I must hear a comment almost daily, but I consider myself as having a ways to go to get to where I want to be in terms of development and even definition.

I sure as hell don’t feel “ashamed” and I don’t feel “tiny”. I simply compare myself to people who are above me in terms of development, not to people who are ‘average’. I think many of us are like that if we are serious about bodybuilding. I’ve seen myself everyday in the mirror my entire life so naturally I don’t shout out, “holy crap, I’m huge!”.

In other words, I don’t even see how there is anything to research about this topic. I think there are guys like that out there, but they aren’t what make up the majority of us.


Just to elevate the discussion, I think Jeep Swenson had dysmorphia. Why else would someone get to over 400lbs and try to get even bigger? Considering his death by heart failure, I don’t think it is a stretch to believe he was that way…even if it is just speculation.

Greg Kovacs is another who pops to mind. These are guys who just took it overboard in my opinion.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
chrisrodx wrote:
I was doing some research on the subject and came across this article. What are your thoughts on this guys?

I think anyone who is actually like this is a small minority. I don’t “feel” as big as people react to me as being. I must hear a comment almost daily, but I consider myself as having a ways to go to get to where I want to be in terms of development and even definition.

I sure as hell don’t feel “ashamed” and I don’t feel “tiny”. I simply compare myself to people who are above me in terms of development, not to people who are ‘average’. I think many of us are like that if we are serious about bodybuilding. I’ve seen myself everyday in the mirror my entire life so naturally I don’t shout out, “holy crap, I’m huge!”.

In other words, I don’t even see how there is anything to research about this topic. I think there are guys like that out there, but they aren’t what make up the majority of us.[/quote]

I couldn’t agree with your post more.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
A very interesting book is Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction.

An interesting insight from the book: Very few people have “bigorexia.” Most guys who think they are too small, are, in fact, too small.[/quote]

Yeah. There’s also a difference between serious lifters who may be deemed compulsive by many yet recognize they are big and those with genuine disorders and skewed self-perception.