Monday, June 4, 2012

Body Image & Muscle dysmorphia – I’m no Superman

Human body is a graceful culmination of evolution and years of hard work in the gym can result in the development of an impressive physique. Gruelling workouts in the gym and adherence to exercise can result in a very discipline approach to life. It makes you confident, improves your self-esteem and your body image. Thanks to media, our body image has evolved throughout the years. An ideal image for a woman these days would be thinness and for a man would be increased muscularity. A perfect example in mens’ muscularity would be the comparison of Charles Atlas, Eugene Sandow to Arnold Schwarneger and Sylvester Stallone or to our current famous bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman [1]. Muscularity through the years has gone from muscular to acute muscularity. This can be easily identifiable in action or superhero figures egs – GI Joes, Superman etc. 

What is Body Image?
Body Image here defined is a multidimensional construct that reflects how we see our own body, and how we think, feel and act towards it.

As per some research, a discrepancy in a person’s body image would result in an autonomous exercise behaviour that would result in improved exercise adherence [1].
If I perceive myself has thin or overweight, I would like to do something about it to fit in the socio-cultural expected standards of a male/ female body image. An Ectomorph would like to become more muscular, while as an Endomorph would like to lose fat to get muscular. There has been an increase predominance or a shift to a Mesomorph type of a body. Further, research has posited that young men get influenced by the media and tend to aspire for the V-shaped broad shoulders, muscular upper torso and a narrow waist. Due to the persuasive power of the media there is a possibility of young men be dissatisfied with their body. This onset of body dissatisfaction could then lead to muscle dysmorphia, substance abuse and disordered eating [3] [5].

Muscle dysmorphia
Muscle dysmorphia (MD) is a preoccupation with the idea that one’s body is insufficiently lean and muscular and considered as a body image disorder in men. Some individuals are pre-occupied with their entire body being small or puny while as the truth is they tend to be normal or unusually muscular. This mental issue affects their social commitments and lifestyle [2].  An individual suffering from Muscle dysmorphia or Bigorexia or Reverse anorexia will be obsessed on his physique that his weight training and diet would consume major amount of his time. This individual will have an uncontrollable focus on pursuing his body building lifestyle by sacrificing his career, social and other activities. Situations that would require exposure of that individual’s body will be avoided (for example - beach). Person’s behaviour in social settings will be diminished because of their preponderance on their presumed body deficiencies. For example an individual suffering from a wrist injury would go with bench pressing through the pain, so as not to skip his workout routine [3] [4].

Muscle Dysmorphia and Substance abuse
A high discrepancy in an individual’s body image dissatisfaction may result in that particular individual resorting to Androgenic – Anabolic steroids.  These individuals tend to depend on these harmful substances which may hamper their growth and cause injury. Some researchers have even supported psychological issues among steroid users [5]. These behaviours are very harmful to the younger generation and could lead low self esteem, substance abuse and disordered eating.

Our main idea to write this article is to bring awareness amongst gym users; we do not pathologize working out, weight training or fitness. It is our aim to inform YFC members about these psychological issues. We strongly believe that fitness or your desired goal can be achieved through a healthy sustained approach.

[1]  E. Halliwell., H. Dittmar & A. Orsborn (2007). The effects of exposure to muscular male models among men: Exploring the moderating role of gym use and exercise -motivation, Body Image, 4, 278-287.

 [2] V.Hitzeroth., C.Wessels., N. Zungu-Dirwayi., P. Oosthuizen & D.J. Stein (2001). Muscle dysmorphia: A South African sample, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 55, 521-523.
[3] J.E. Leone., E.J. Sedory & K.A. Grady (2005). Recognition and Treatment of Muscle Dysmorphia and Related Body Image Disorders, Journal of Athletic Training, 40, 352-359.
 [4] D. Wolke & M.Sapouna (2008). Big men feeling small: Childhood bullying experience, muscle dysmorphia and other mental health problems in bodybuilders, Psychology of Sports and Exercise, 9, 595-604.
[5] A.M. Wroblewska (1997). Androgenic-Anabolic Steriods and Body Dysmorphia in Young Men, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 225-234.