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Muscle Dysmorphia

What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

According to the U.S. The National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “Muscle dysmorphia is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that is more specifically subcategorized as body dysmorphobic disorder. When they hear the term obsessive-compulsive, many people conjure images of excessive hand washing or bizarre daily rituals. When applied to the framework of body image, the obsession becomes the body or, more specifically, the level of muscularity and leanness. The compulsion is to achieve the desired levels of muscularity and leanness.” 

Muscle Dysmorphia is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States that puts pressure on males to appear more muscular and lean. It is a psychobehavioral  disorder that is similar to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Muscle dysmorphia is a form of body image issues, men are more likely to be susceptible. But, athletes being at a higher risk than other groups. That is to say, muscle dysmorphic is not a male only disorder, women are also susceptible. 

The societial pressures we are exposed to everyday from the media, advertising campaigns, and the elusive “ideal look.” The ideal feminine look for American women is to be thin. Women who participate in sports that emphasize small frames and thinness like, cross-country runners or dancers are at a higher risk of developing this disorder. In the recent societal pressures put on the ideal male physique has grown in the last years. Male athlethes who participate in sports stressing size and strenght are at high risks of muscle dysmorphia.    

Associated Dangers:

The abuse of drugs such as androgenic-anabolic steroids to build up muscle and achieve the “intended or desirable” results from excessively working out to achieve the “shredded or ripped” look. Therefore, as a result of long time anabolic steroid abuse leads to serious and in some cases permanent health problems, such as:

For men:

  • Shrinking testicles
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Baldness
  • Development of breast
  • Increased risk for prostate cancer

For women:

  • Growth of facial hair or excess body hair
  • Decreased breast size
  • Male-patterned baldness
  • Changes in or stop in the menstrual cycle
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Deepening of the voice

General health:

  • Kidney problems or failure
  • Liver damage
  • Enlarged heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in cholesterol coincidently increasing risks of strokes and heart attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • For more information, follow the link.

Treatment Options:

The first step is to recognize that you have MDM. Those who suffer from MDM appear to be healthy in the short term, it is difficult to recognize MDM. Getting patients of muscle dysmorphia disorder to accept their diagnosis is difficult. MDM patients do not seek treatment because they believe they are healthy. It is important that a physician be alert and able to identify MDM before it is too late. Discussing openly about body issues in group or one-on-one sessions. General medicated approaches have had success: those treated with antidepressants like fluoxetine in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy. 

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