Guest Post by Chris Brown
As participants in a media-driven culture, we are slowly but surely accepting what the television and the internet say is the ideal body. Male bodybuilders are expected to look a certain way, and if they don’t then they are not considered macho or even professional.
As a consequence, a 2014 study in JAMA Pediatrics showed that the average young male is more worried about his physique than his studies or even work. Indeed, 18% of boys are so concerned about how they look that they are now at risk for falling victim to depression, drug abuse, and binge drinking. When these boys become men, the need to appeal to conventional attitudes increases and ushers in Muscle Dysmorphia.
Understanding Muscle Dysmorphia
By definition, this is a psychological disorder in which someone who is muscular feels that they are too skinny compared to others. They focus on a specific aspect of their musculature and punish themselves psychologically because they feel inadequate within a particular construct.
Common behaviours related to Muscle Dysmorphia ("Bigorexia")
1. Abuse of Supplements
Bodybuilders tend to feel pressured to look a particular way (huge). Over time, they become obsessed with that look -- so much so that their attention is always focused on that milestone. The result is an overreliance on supplements and an inability to set limits. Granted, supplements are a core part of bodybuilding, but like just about anything else, the abuse of such products can cause serious health complications.
2. Overtraining at the Gym
The universal view is that the longer you spend at the gym, the better it is for your health. However, this is not the case when you get to the point where you spend several hours at a fitness center working at full intensity. The human body has a breaking point: when you push yourself beyond it, you risk injury. In addition, those suffering from Muscle Dysmorpia tend to torture their bodies, working out without resting even when they have serious injuries.
3. Deviant Eating Patterns
A bodybuilder is usually very selective about what they eat, but it gets worrisome when dieting is taken to an extreme level. At that point, you really stop caring about what your body needs and focus only on what you feel it takes to keep and maintain that specific look.
4. Treatment for Muscle Dysmorphia
The most popular form of treatment for bigorexia applies the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a blanket term for a wide range of therapies designed to help a patient break bad habits. It alters behavior in a positive way, allowing people to pursue healthy and realistic ways of achieving their targets.
Sadly, most bodybuilders out there do not even know when they're suffering from bigorexia -- meaning they never pursue treatment. Watch out for very strict eating patterns, which may herald a bigger problem, as well as long, obsessive workouts, another pointer to the existence of this condition.
About the Author
Chris Brown is a personal trainer and bodybuilder who loves blogging about fitness on his website www.gainbuildmuscle.com.