Posted on 27th July 2016

Muscle Dysmorphia: why don’t we talk about it?

Fitness/ Lifestyle

This topic is incredibly close to my heart. I can only speak through my experience as a girlfriend of someone who suffers with muscle dysmorphia (other wise known as bigorexia). Dan inspired me and even suggested I write this post and I for one would like to applaud his bravery for allowing me to write this. This is such a HUGE part of his life, and it’s become a rather large part of mine now too. I’m both really excited yet incredibly nervous to publicise this post. Excited because I’m so passionate about it, yet nervous because I’m plunging headfirst into unknown territory. In this post I will be explaining exactly what muscle dysmorphia means, its place in today’s society, and how it has effected Dan, both physically and mentally.


What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

“a mental disorder primarily affecting males, characterized by obsessions about a perceived lack of muscularity, leading to compulsive exercising, use of anabolic steroids, etc.” Dictionary.com

 

You probably encounter many a person who suffers with muscle dysmorphia on a daily basis, but you have perhaps never heard of the actual term. That is because of the society we live in. So many men are encouraged to “get big”, whether it be through celebrity endorsement, body shaming in the media, or simply through “banter”. Society turns a blind eye to this because… well… that’s what a man should look like. Isn’t it?


 

Its place in society

When I met Dan of course I noticed that he was massive. He’s six foot and five inches tall, and he has been muscly for years. We got closer and I learned about his addiction to the gym, but I saw it as a positive thing. It’s inspiring! I wish I had that kind of will power and motivation. What I didn’t see at first however was the consequences of such an addiction…

Roughly a year ago I saw an interesting article on BBC Newsbeat entitled “BIGOREXIA”. I’ve attached the video I watched below:

This article literally brought me to tears when I watched it back then, and again watching it now. Yes, yes, I’m one big wet flannel. But in all seriousness, the reason it upsets me so much is that these guys are clearly so unhappy with their physiques – and the words coming out of their mouths, well I’ve heard it all countless times before from Dan himself.

It made me realise, Wow, Dan isn’t alone in this. According to the Newsbeat article 1 in 10 men at the gym suffer from muscle dysmorphia. That is a RIDICULOUS figure! Why aren’t more people discussing this? This is an issue involving the men of today and no one is addressing it.

I have one potential answer to this… masculinity. Men in our society are taught to not have emotions lest they be labelled “wusses” and to not address their problems. Instead they are encouraged to “MAN UP” and get on with it. I could honestly rant about this ridiculous ideology all day.

Dan Back Muscle Dysmorphia www.wingitwithjade.comTHIS IS A PROBLEM. Men don’t feel comfortable talking about their insecurities or simply opening up, afraid that it might make them less manly somehow. Muscle dysmorphia isn’t being registered as an issue because society is willing to ignore it, or to simply put it down to standard “laddish behaviour”.


 

Q&A with Dan

What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror?

I see myself as being exactly the same size as when I started. All I think is “I want to be bigger. I need to be bigger”.

Dan before the gym in 2009.

Dan before the gym in 2009.

Why is it so important for you to “be big”?

I don’t know… It helps at work (Dan is a lorry mechanic). It feels good to be strong, and to be relied on by other people.

 

Do you think that this has become a bigger issue amongst men within society recently?

Definitely. The instagram aesthetic doesn’t help at all. At the touch of a finger I can see incredibly unrealistic images of other men, which doesn’t make you feel good. You also have no idea how much of it is natural, you don’t know whether they are on steroids.

 

Have you ever considered taking steroids? Why?

Yes. It always has been and always will be in the back of my mind: how big can I get? One big thing stopping me is that steroids don’t make you any stronger. I’ve seen guys who admit to taking steroids, who are bigger than me but I can live two times more than they can.

 

Will you ever stop trying to be bigger?

No. I can’t. I feel miserable when I miss just one gym session. Missing one session is like missing two because muscle deteriorates so quickly. Every week I don’t go I feel like I’m getting smaller.


 

The consequences

As you can see, for an individual suffering with muscle dysmorphia it is a complete addiction. These men are in constant competition with one another and with themselves as to who can be the biggest and the best: the ultimate man in their eyes.

 

My two main grievances with this illness are:

1. It is totally ignored by society and no one is doing anything to stop it.

2. Yet again, these unrealistic images of the human body are distorting our view of the world and causing many people severe distress.


 

Final thoughts

I guess my take home message today is the famous phrase “never judge a book by its cover”. By looking at a person, there is no way on earth you could even begin to imagine the baggage that they carry every day.

 

If you hadn’t heard about muscle dysmorphia before this post, I really hope I’ve shed some light on what it’s all about and the enormous impacts it can have on a person. My ultimate dream outcome of this post would be to get people talking and to spread awareness really. The more people know, the less dangerous it becomes.

Dans back Muscle Dysmorphia www.wingitwithjade.com

Do you know anything about muscle dysmorphia? Can you maybe share your experiences, or the experiences of someone you know? Please let me know what you think to this post in the comments below, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!


 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, nor do I profess to be one. If you have any concerns after reading this post, please seek the advice of your GP. Do not self diagnose.

 

Do you have room for more? Head over to my post about Polycystic Ovaries, a condition which I suffer from, whereby I can talk to you all about what it is and the impact it has on my day to day life.

Thank you so much for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on my other social media accounts, and feel free to comment below or message me for a chat – I’d love to talk to you.

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  • This was so fantastic to read. I applaud your boyfriend for being so brave in this too! I am a recovering anorexic and have been on wards with guys with muscle dysmorphia and trust me when I say it is JUST as serious as eating disorders/body dysmorphic disorders that people know much more about. I have seen people on the brink of death as a result of this illness and it isn’t pretty. It took me a long time to get my head around it (I suppose because my illness is oppositional to this) but I think it is so important that we talk about it. I’d encourage Dan to get some professional support for this before it has the chance to go any further, too. And well done YOU for being so supportive and such a great girlfriend 🙂

    Ps, is that a deathbat tattoo? 😀

    Alice | Whiskey Jars Blog

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your anorexia Alice – but you sound so brave and mature, I just know that you are strong enough to overcome this and anything else that comes your way. Muscle dysmorphia is a scaaary illness and if nothing else, I just want society to recognise it as a problem! Thank you so much for your comment, it made my day! Ps, I’m not really too sure if he had a deathbat in mind, it sure does look like one though!! xx

  • This was such a good read!

    Well done to Dan as well 🙂 Will be showing this to my boyf as I think he suffers as well. We are all in this together!

    • Thank you Marta! I totally agree – solidarity is key <3 xxx

  • Corinne C

    I think Dan looks massive! It’s mental that he doesn’t see it. He has shoulder caps that a lot of guys would die for. We’re always our own worst critic and it won’t be until a few years when he looks back at the photos he see’s his size and wishes he could appreciate it more.

    Corinne x

    • I know right! It’s a shame that he doesn’t see what we see. xxx

  • What a great read. I think a lot of guys are definitely peer pressured into that mentality, I can also say I have experienced the pressure of ‘getting massive’ myself. And although I don’t suffer from the condition, I still feel inadequate for not quite living up to society’s mark of the muscular male.

    Marc | Marc Andrew

    • Hi Mark, thank you so much for your comment. I agree, and it’s a real shame that our society is encouraging it. Having said that, I think that the first step is recognising the issue – so hopefully this will be a step in the right direction! xx

  • What a brilliant, yet sad, read. I’d heard of bigorexia before, I watch way too much TV, but it’s so heartbreaking to read Dan’s comments where he actually believes he’s still the same size he was. I really hope that he never decides to take steroids xx

    • I agree – I found the Q&A section so difficult, and watching the documentary again as well. It’s so sad to hear what is really going on in their minds. I really don’t think he will – he knows my views on it anyway! Thanks Holly <3 xxx

  • pippa artus clashingtime

    This is so interesting! I knew about this condition, but never looked into it this much because if I am honest, I didn’t know anyone who I thought had a problem. I guess that people need to realise that both men and women suffer from body confidence issues and gyms should take time to educate people on health implications!

    • Thanks so much Pippa! & that’s exactly it – that’s all I could ever hope to gain from this post: a recognition of illness where it’s currently ignored. xxx

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