Muscle dysmorphia in male weightlifters: a case-control study

Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;157(8):1291-6. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.8.1291.


Objective: Muscle dysmorphia is a form of body dysmorphic disorder in which individuals develop a pathological preoccupation with their muscularity.

Method: The authors interviewed 24 men with muscle dysmorphia and 30 normal comparison weightlifters, recruited from gymnasiums in the Boston area, using a battery of demographic, psychiatric, and physical measures.

Results: The men with muscle dysmorphia differed significantly from the normal comparison weightlifters on numerous measures, including body dissatisfaction, eating attitudes, prevalence of anabolic steroid use, and lifetime prevalence of DSM-IV mood, anxiety, and eating disorders. The men with muscle dysmorphia frequently described shame, embarrassment, and impairment of social and occupational functioning in association with their condition. By contrast, normal weightlifters displayed little pathology. Indeed, in an a posteriori analysis, the normal weightlifters proved closely comparable to a group of male college students recruited as a normal comparison group in an earlier study.

Conclusions: Muscle dysmorphia appears to be a valid diagnostic entity, possibly related to a larger group of disorders, and is associated with striking and stereotypical features. Men with muscle dysmorphia differ sharply from normal weightlifters, most of whom display little psychopathology. Further research is necessary to characterize the nosology and potential treatment of this syndrome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Family Relations
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Weight Lifting*