December 9, 2010 | by Kevin M. Norris
Is your mirror talking back to you?

Researchers claim that gay men are more likely to suffer from poor body image, even if they have fit physiques.

Are you happy with the way you look in the mirror?  Does your body image match your physique? If not, chances are you are not alone.

“Bigorexia,” muscle dysmorphia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is predominantly a male phenomena and arguably more prevalent in the gay community. The impact of media stressing the muscular ideal among men much more these days, cultural norms for men and masculinity, and the cultural devaluing of homosexuality all have a negative impact on gay men, according to research.

Michael Chaney’s article “Muscle Dysmorphia, Self-esteem, and Loneliness Among Gay and Bisexual Men” in the June 22, 2008 International Journal of Men’s Health asserts these factors lead more gay men to be unhappy with their bodies.

According to freelibrary.com, Chaney’s study shows that gay men with higher degrees of muscle dysmorphia have lower self-esteem than those without the disorder. This lower self-esteem in turn fuels the need to work out more. Since those with muscle dysmorphia can’t perceive their own improvement, their self-esteem lowers further, compelling them to try harder. This becomes a vicious, digressive cycle over time. Chaney concludes that his findings support the idea that gay and bisexual men are more susceptible than other men to muscle dysmorphia.

Other studies show that those with muscle dysmorphia are more likely to have eating disorders and more varieties of eating disorders. One example is  Robert Olivardia’s study published in the article “Muscle Dysmorphia in Male Weightlifters: A Case-Control Study” in the American Journal of Psychiatry, August 2000. Once gay men have acquired muscle dysmorphia, further complications are likely, whether from eating disorders, social isolation, or other sources.

Our obsession with how we look to others can reach an unhealthy level and for some can be debilitating. Bigorexia often describes someone who is obsessed with the idea that he or she is not muscular enough. It’s more than a common insecurity and can lead to unhappiness and disruption in quality of life.

This disorder is often referred to as Reverse Aneroxia Nervosa or the Adonis Complex and those that actually suffer from this very real disorder become hyper-vigilant. They will spend countless hours in the gym trying to counteract what they see, but regardless of the results, never really attain a healthy perspective.

I am fairly certain the way I view or perceive myself in the mirror is different from the way others view me. About.com and many other sources state that BDD is affecting hundreds of thousands of men and presents in a very real and life altering manner. Bodybuilders and gay men lead the statistics.

It was not until 1997 that muscle dysmorphia was coined and categorized as a new form of body dysmorphic disorder. The DSMV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the diagnostic gold standard for clinicians states that Muscle Dysmorphia is defined by “a preoccupation with an IMAGINED defect in appearance that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” Further, while there may indeed be some defect, the sufferer as an extreme, obsesses over this, however minor and insignificant.

So what can be done to prevent or counteract this obsession?

According to Askmen.com: “Learning to identify and change your style of thinking is central to therapy in this area and, provided you can accept you have a problem, is highly effective. The trick is to catch it early. If you leave it until you have full on bigorexia, you have probably left it far too late.”

Weightlosshypnoishub.com gives six helpful tools for overcoming a distorted body image:

Understanding imperfection. Everyone is imperfect so change what you can;

Talk less about the perceived imperfections and think and express positive thoughts;

Focus on the good. Spend more time on what you like and what you can do;

Set attainable goals.

Study the problem and gain awareness through knowledge.

Know when to get help.

Most importantly learn to accept yourself for who you are and believe in yourself. And if you can’t get the mirror to shut up, throw it out.

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