“Bigorexia” and Body Image Distortion in Males

NY times (3/5/22): What Is ‘Bigorexia’?

This article appeared in the print edition of the NT Times on 3/6/22 (in the Style Section). Some excerpts:

Many doctors and researchers say that the relentless online adulation of muscular male bodies can have a toxic effect on the self-esteem of young men, with the never-ending scroll of six packs and boy-band faces making them feel inadequate and anxious...

A 2019 survey published in the Californian Journal of Health Promotion examined body image in boys. Almost a third of the 149 boys surveyed, aged 11 to 18, were dissatisfied with their body shapes. Athletes were more likely to be dissatisfied than non-athletes and most wanted to “increase muscle,” especially in the chest, arms and abs.

The quest for perfect pecs is so strong that psychiatrists now sometimes refer to it as “bigorexia,” a form of muscle dysmorphia exhibited mostly by men and characterized by excessive weight lifting, a preoccupation with not feeling muscular enough and a strict adherence to eating foods that lower weight and build muscle…

A scroll through the most popular TikTok or YouTube accounts today reveals a landscape dominated by musclemen…no form of media has disrupted how young men view their bodies quite like the insatiable voyeurism and staged exhibitionism that fuels platforms like TikTok and Instagram...

A study published last year in The Journal of Adolescent Health looked at eating disorders among men throughout young adulthood. By age 16 to 25, one-quarter of the 4,489 male participants told researchers they were worried about not having enough muscles. Eleven percent reported using muscle-building products such as creatine or anabolic steroids…

The line between getting fit and fanatical is not always clear…

Bigorexia can lead to interpersonal problems too. Many young men who overexercise and follow rigid diets often skip meals with family and friends, and complain of feeling isolated and socially anxious...

At first, he thought a muscular physique might be a way to make new friends, especially among the girls at school. But most of the attention has come from other boys on TikTok looking to get buff.

“Your only new friends are the weights,” he says in one video.

My take: Fortunately, this blog author’s appearance will not cause anyone to develop toxic self-esteem issues. On a more serious note, this growing problem should lead physicians to review protein supplements/dietary supplements with our teen population in addition to being sensitive to associated emotional struggles..

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