Muscle Dysmorphia in Males

Contributor: Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE

Friends Meeting in City SquareBody Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a body-image disorder that causes people to obsess over their real or perceived physical imperfections for hours. BDD affects both men and women. Severe BDD can cause major emotional stress and anxiety, and it can interfere with a person’s normal daily functions.

A person with BDD is consumed with negative thoughts about their physique, and often will avoid social situations because they worry others will notice their perceived flaws. BDD can cause people to seek out ways to alter their bodies, such as plastic surgery, and also can trigger eating disorders.

The Opposite of Anorexia – “Bigorexia”

One growing subtype of Body Dysmorphic Disorder is muscle dismorphia or “bigorexia.” This condition is, in some ways, the opposite of anorexia. People with muscle dismorphia are concerned that they appear too weak and frail, and particularly that their muscles are small and underdeveloped.

While muscle dysmorphia affects both genders, the majority of bigorexia sufferers are men. It is also important to note that many people that suffer from muscle dismorphia are often very muscularly developed; some are even body builders. Like any type of body-image dismorphia, sufferers oftentimes have a very warped image of themselves.

Social Pressures on Men Are Growing

a man walks with his horseThe social pressures causing eating disorders among men are on the rise. There is a greater emphasis on muscularity at a younger age than ever before. Images of muscular, perfectly toned men are rampant among media and social media.

Action figures, super heroes, and celebrities are often depicted with a perfect “V-shaped” torso, chiseled abs, a broad chest, muscular arms, large calves, and a low body fat percentage. Young male celebrities are even being photoshopped to adhere to this perceived muscular standard.

The Growing Obsession with Body Image in Men

Because of this increasing social pressure, many men obsess over their body image and body composition. These men with muscular dysmorphia will take to extreme eating habits, have extreme workout regimes, use muscle enhancing drugs and steroids, and even seek out plastic surgery options such a pectoral and calf implants.

In addition to the physical trauma these extreme habits can cause, people with muscular dysmorphia often suffer from depression, anxiety, and other co-occurring disorders.

be93e4e9-3ce2-4694-af88-7d4d54ae50ecThese social pressures to meet an oftentimes unrealistic physical standard, mixed with the lack of diagnosis and treatment of men with eating disorders or body dismorphia, has created a perfect storm for male muscle dismorphia today. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Extreme weightlifting and exercise patterns
  • Excessive time weightlifting or exercising
  • Constant conversation revolving around their weightlifting or “bulking” habits
  • Negative, delusional comments about their physicality
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Anxiety over missed-workouts
  • Obsession over diets, supplements, or eating habits
  • Use of steroids or other muscle bulking drugs
  • Choosing to workout over other responsibilities or spending time with family and friends

If you observe a loved one struggling with the above symptoms or are concerned that they might have muscular dismorphia, seek out profession help today.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with Muscle Dysmorhpia, what tools have you learned in your recovery that you can share? What do you believe has helped you the most?

About the Author:

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good.

The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 10th, 2015
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