Muscle dysmorphia, commonly referred to as muscle dysmorphic disorder, or MDD, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder in which individuals worry that they are too small and/or underdeveloped. Even when they have above-average mass and size, these individuals believe that they are too fragile and frail.
What Causes It?
Although scientists and psychologists are relatively unsure about the underlying cause for muscle dysmorphia, there is ample research to suggest that these individuals have brains that are incapable of mapping appropriate bodily boundaries. It can be compared to the condition known as anorexia nervosa, in which individuals feel they are “fat”, even when they are incredibly thin, malnourished, and weak. People with muscle dysmorphia view their bodies inappropriately and believe that their muscles are simply too small, regardless of their size. In fact, in bodybuilding and athletic circles, it is often called “bigorexia”.
Signs that You May Have Muscle Dysmorphia
Although this condition must be diagnosed by a mental health professional, there are some warning signs and factors that come into play. Men have the condition more often than women, and just about everyone with MDD also suffers from depression. Some signs that you or someone you know may have this disorder include:
- Hiding their bodies under layers of baggy clothing;
- Using steroids or other bodybuilding products excessively;
- Avoiding situations that may expose the body, such as going to the pool or beach;
- Feelings of disgust or disappointment with their physical appearance;
- Maintaining strict low-fat, high-protein diets without regard for physical health or wellbeing;
- Performing extreme workouts, often to the point of exhaustion; and
- Continuously or compulsively looking in mirrors.
Potential Dangers of MDD
Muscle dysmorphia can cause a variety of problems with one’s health and overall wellbeing. Oftentimes, individuals with MDD are so obsessed with their bodies that they are robbed of the joys associated with positive social relationships with friends, family, and even spouses. These individuals may exercise to excess, even when they are injured or ill, which can cause significant health problems. Their diet choices may leave them malnourished, and they may use performance-enhancing supplements irresponsibly or to excess, which can be fatal if left unchecked.
Although there is no outright cure for muscle dysmorphia, there are treatment options available that can help individuals with this condition lead fuller, happier, and healthier lives. These individuals should seek help from mental health specialists, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, in order to get to the root of the issues causing the MDD. In most cases, these specialists can help individuals dealing with MDD learn new coping methods and behaviors for dealing with stress, which is the best way to overcome the disorder and prevent future relapse.
Muscle dysmorphia is a very serious problem, and those who have it typically do not even realize it. If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering from MDD, it is important to seek treatment in order to reverse many of the unhealthy habits associated with the condition.