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Self-obsessiveness over the appearance one's body has been on the rise in recent years. Photoshopped celebrity images and social media have a big part to play in instilling feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism in people. The media's shifting depiction of masculinity reflects men's rising desire to have a chiseled appearance.

In recent years, idealized male figures have taken on increasingly muscular features.  However, while concerns about one's body image are more commonly linked with women, guys are not exempt from them. Muscle dysmorphia is a mental health issue when young males feel under pressure to be strong and muscular.

What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

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Dysmorphia is a kind of body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition in which an individual obsesses over perceived imperfections in their appearance. However, with muscle dysmorphia, the emphasis is squarely on the individual's perception of their muscularity. Unfortunately, the image they perceive in the mirror is frequently distorted, creating a sense of inadequacy.

Frequently referred to as 'Reverse Anorexia' or 'Bigorexia,' this condition is marked by an obsession with the feeling that one is not muscular or lean enough. As a result, individuals who suffer from Muscle Dysmorphia have negative perceptions of their bodies, which significantly influences their general well-being.

Symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia

Muscle dysmorphia is frequently seen in conjunction with eating disorders. Numerous symptoms are similar, including anxiety before mealtimes, an obsession with appearance, and excessive self-criticism. A few of the most prevalent symptoms of muscular dysmorphia include the following:

  • Rigid commitment to a specific and restricted diet and an intense dedication to exercise.
  • Working out even when injured or worn out.
  • Checking out the physique in front of a mirror regularly.
  • Constantly comparing one’s appearance with others.
  • Spending hours in the gym and doing unnecessary exercises.
  • Strong belief that a defect in one’s appearance that makes them ugly or deformed.
  • Neglecting other commitments of their life and focusing solely on the gym.
  • Taking muscle enhancing supplements without proper knowledge.
  • Causes of Muscle Dysmorphia

    Men who spend a significant amount of time in gyms, locker rooms, and other places where male attractiveness is measured and commented on are at an increased risk of developing muscle dysmorphia. The more time they spend with people who are bound to pass a judgement, the more likely they will begin to judge themselves.

    A few of the significant causes of muscle dysmorphia also includes the following-

    Media influence


    Media portrayals of men over time have become more muscular. Over several decades, male models and celebrities have become significantly larger and leaner (muscular). Even male cartoon figures and superheroes have changed over time, becoming unrealistically muscular.

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    This unrealistic portrayal lead youth to believe that a muscular physique is ideal causing increased cases of muscle dysmorphia. Young men battle with body image concerns, also owing to advertising, social media, and other factors.

    Peer / Family Pressure

    The view that being muscular is valuable is learned from friends and family and added pressure to be muscular may come in the form of comparisons or comments about appearance from loved ones.

    Psychological Trauma/Bullying

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    According to specialists, there may also be a link between bigorexia and bullying, as men who have been bullied early in life may believe that adding muscle will help them ward off future bullies. Men who have been attacked for their thin physiques may feel the same way, and because they do not treat the trauma caused by the bullying, they may always be at risk.


    Reports suggest that some males with muscle dysmorphia develop the disorder as a result of hereditary factors. Having a biological ancestor who suffers from the same, increases one's likelihood of acquiring the condition.

    How to Treat Muscle Dysmorphia

    Some professionals believe muscle dysmorphia is a subtype of OCD. OCD sufferers also battle intrusive and false thoughts that last for days, weeks, or months. Some males with muscle dysmorphia may benefit from OCD medications. The medications may help relieve chemical imbalances that lead thoughts to stick, allowing a him to focus on other aspects of his life.

    Therapy is another successful option for men suffering from this condition. Assault, teasing, or bullying are common triggers for men to identify and evaluate. Therapy can help people deal with past traumas, so they don't feel forced to transform their bodies to address them.

    Other options like meditation, painting, or massage also help to relieve mental distress. These things can help men to take their minds off from workouts and yet feel good about themselves.

    How Can Parents Help?

    Trust the Process

    Watching someone you care about to become overwhelmed by irrational thinking that you cannot understand, can be extremely frustrating at times. What may appear to be evident to you, however, is utterly overshadowed by their delusional beliefs. Parents should be patient and understanding and have faith that the treatment will assist them in getting back on their feet.

    Be Supportive

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    As a parent, the goal should be to fight this disorder with them, together. Just like with any other disorder, a young man maybe fighting a battle they don't want to be in. Muscle dysmorphic disorder is an actual illness that needs to be treated and supported, and not a sign of weakness. Enthusiasm, empathy and compassion from parents and their loved ones give them confidence that they are on their side and help them believe that they're terrific regardless of what they might feel for themselves at times.

    Few other actions that parents should take to deal with this condition-

  • Encourage him to participate in family functions and other gatherings.
  • Unconditional love and try to understand their perspective.
  • Try reading and gaining more knowledge on this topic to understand this condition in-depth and the symptoms.
  • Never punish or lecture him about it.
  • Be a good listener.
  • The Bottom Line

    It's critical to seek help if you've been battling with muscle dysmorphia symptoms. Muscle dysmorphia can have severe effects on your emotional and physical health, as well as other aspects of your life. Because this condition is rarely identified, many sufferers go untreated. With the correct treatment, restore your relationship with your body and what really matters in life.


    Capri, G., van den Berg, P., & Thompson, J. K. (2006). Pursuit of Muscularity in Adolescent Boys: Relations Among Biopsychosocial Variables and Clinical Outcomes. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 35(2), 283–291.

    Cahill, S., & Mussap, A. J. (2007). Emotional reactions following exposure to idealized bodies predict unhealthy body change attitudes and behaviours in women and men. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 62(6), 631–639.

    Carlson Jones, D. (2004). Body Image Among Adolescent Girls and Boys: A Longitudinal Study. Developmental Psychology, 40(5), 823–835.

    Engeln, R., Sladek, M. R., & Waldron, H. (2013). Body talk among college men: Content, correlates, and effects. Body Image, 10(3), 300–308.

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