An Eating Disorder, Male Muscle Dysmorphia Is Spreading

A diagnosis you may not be aware of is in your office — one in five young men may have it

What’s the Claim?

Muscle dysmorphia — “the pathological pursuit of muscularity” and preoccupation with one’s muscle size and definition, resulting in emotional distress — was found via a large, national survey performed in Canada to be more common than previously believed. Nearly one in five individuals in this sample of over 2000 individuals were determined to have the condition or be at very high risk for it. Boys and men were much more likely to report symptoms of muscle dysmorphia than were girls and women. Other groups found to be at increased risk were those who are gay/lesbian (relative to several other categories of sexual orientation, including heterosexual) and people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent (compared to people who self-reported as being White).

How’s It Stack Up?

Although there are differences in studies of this sort depending on the countries and cultures in which they have been performed, this one seems likely to apply across the border in the United States because of general cultural similarities — a recent well-done review article similarly sounded alarms on this topic. Survey studies always raise questions about differences between those who responded and those who didn’t, but the size, the scope, the robust methods used, and the fact that it’s in the ballpark of other recent findings in other samples drawn from Western countries gives this one face validity.

What’s Our Take?