We often hear about body image disorders in women, but male body image disorders are not commonly discussed. However, male body image disorders do exist and are on the rise. One in particular, muscle dysmorphia, has been reported to be more common in men, and in particular, male body builders.

Muscle dysmorphia is a form of body dysmorphic disorder in which individuals develop a pathological preoccupation with their muscularity. Although these individuals may be highly muscular, they believe that they are of very small musculature and have a desire for greater muscularity. They report being dissatisfied with their body and have an undue weight and shape preoccupation.

Research has shown that men affected by muscle dysmorphia often practice unhealthy methods to improve their appearance. These include excessive weight lifting, strict dieting, dehydration methods, and use of anabolic steroids. Additionally, men with muscle dysmorphia have described shame, embarrassment, and impairment of social and occupational functioning in association with their condition.

Although shame and embarrassment about your appearance may keep you from seeking treatment, if you have any signs or symptoms of muscle dysmorphia it is really important to get help since muscle dysmorphia rarely goes away on its own. And, if untreated, this condition may get worse over time and lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Contact your health care professional to discuss.

Tips to Help Prepare You to Talk to Your Doctor

  • Being an active participant in your care can help your efforts to manage your condition. Think about your needs and goals for treatment, and write down a list of questions to ask. These questions might include:
    • How do you treat muscle dysmorphia?
    • How long will treatment take?
    • What can I do to help myself?
    • Will psychotherapy help me?
  • Get prepped to answer some of the questions your doctor might have for you. These may include:
    • What are your symptoms?
    • When did you first notice your symptoms?
    • How much time a day do you spend thinking about your appearance?
    • What have you tried on your own to feel better about your appearance?
    • Do you have any relatives with a mental illness?
    • What medications or over-the-counter supplements do you take?

While you wait for your appointment with your doctor, there are some things you can do to support yourself.

Tips to Support Yourself

  • Write in a journal to express how you feel.
  • Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep.
  • Get together with friends and family regularly. In other words, don't isolate yourself.
  • Learn about muscle dysmorphia by doing research like you are doing now. Educating yourself about the disorder can empower you to understand and stick to a treatment plan.
  • Pay attention to what triggers your feelings of dissatisfaction with your body.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol - these can worsen your symptoms.

Note: Be sure to contact your doctor of mental health care provider. Remember that muscle dysmorphia rarely gets better on its own, and if untreated can get worse and lead to suicidal thoughts or behavior.


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Hildebrandt T, Schlundt D, Langenbucher J, Chung T."Presence of muscle dysmorphia symptomology among male weightlifters." Compr Psychiatry. 2006 Mar-Apr; 47(2):127-35.

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Body dismorphic disorder." MayoClinic.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-dysmorphic-disorder/DS00559/DSECTION=symptoms

Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D., Harrison G. Pope, Jr., M.D., M.P.H., and James I. Hudson, M.D., S.M. "Muscle Dysmorphia in Male Weightlifters." Am J Psychiatry 157:1291-1296, August 2000. Web. 9 Apr. 2010. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/157/8/1291

Williams, M. "Body Image & Eating Disorders in Males." Brainphysics.com. Web. 9 Apr. 2010. http://www.brainphysics.com/muscle-dysmorphia.php