“Bigorexia” recognized in more men

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: April 3rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

After Charles Atlas had sand kicked in his face by a beach-going bully, he bulked up and earned the moniker “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.” The result? The birth of the body-building era. Think T-V’s the Incredible Hulk or Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron.”

But some men are taking muscle mania to all new levels… and the result can be downright dangerous.

Amid increasing media coverage of celebrity anorexia comes increasing concern about a disorder some call “bigorexia.” [big-oh-rex-ee-ah]

More scientifically known as muscle dysmorphia [diss-MORE-fee-ah], the disorder is a bit like the reverse of anorexia.

Those affected by it are obsessed with gaining muscle, as opposed to losing weight. They also have a distorted view of themselves as being smaller than their actual size.

A 2000 study in the American Journal of Psychology found a wide discrepancy between men’s actual muscularity and their body ideals. Men reported their ideal body size being on average twenty-eight pounds heavier. Experts say that could be a factor contributing to the rise in body image disorders.

Bigorexia interferes with people’s daily lives and can become a crippling obsession. Men with the condition often spend long hours lifting and micromanage their diet. Some continue to workout even after becoming injured, or forego aerobic exercise for fear they’ll lose muscle mass. Others take steroids or other medications that pose health risks.

Fortunately many men benefit from counseling. And they might take heart in other findings showing that many women actually prefer a less muscular look.