Never Too Buff

The quest for the ideal lean and mean body can lead to an obsession/preoccupation that is disabling, dangerous and deadly.


Tommy Jackson decided he wanted to be a cop when he was six years old; a really big tough cop. Throughout childhood and adolescent Tommy stuck with his career choice. He was a formidable guy who played varsity football in high school. He worked out as often as he could and maintained a strict diet, but secretly he was always afraid that he would never be hired into law enforcement. He just wasn't as big as the officers depicted on screen.

Officer Jackson now works in a large urban area, riddled by bangers. His beat has one of the highest crime rates in the city. He has kept himself in incredible shape. He is muscular with chiseled abs and can bench 250. He continues to work out feverishly to remain in condition. Yet he can't help but notice that some of his beat partners are substantially more ripped than he is. Additionally they are more imposing on the street and more confident. He continues to obsess about his muscularity. He has to be bigger and stronger. Paradoxically, the harder he tries, the punier he feels.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Most people are at least somewhat self-conscious about their looks. A desire to look and feel good about appearance is a component of self-esteem. If you look in the mirror and see a flaw, there is usually a desire to correct it. Why else would Americans spend approximately $60 billion on dieting annually and an additional $15 billion for cosmetic surgery procedures? Common features that people are dissatisfied with include: facial aspects (nose or ear size), complexion (acne or wrinkles), hair (baldness), breast size, muscle size, and genitalia. It is interesting to note that 38% of men are now dissatisfied with the size of their chests compared to 34% of women who are dissatisfied with their breasts.

However, for approximately 2% of the general population, this desire can become a dangerous and disabling obsession. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a chronic mental illness in which an individual is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features. The disorder has also been coined the imagined ugliness disorder. Essentially, people with BDD maintain an irrational, disproportionate, and negative opinion of their own bodies. In about half of the cases, these concerns reach delusional proportions. Half of individuals with BDD will undergo surgical correction to fix perceived flaw. Body dysmorphic disorder usually begins in adolescence; it can last a lifetime. Symptoms of BDD may develop gradually or very abruptly.

Individuals with BDD suffer in many ways. Over 95% have social impairment, major depression affects 60-80 percent, 2/3rd have suicide ideation, one quarter will attempt suicide, and over 1/3rd are substance abusers. Additionally, they tend to be introverted, delusional, anxious, narcissistic, display violent behavior, and have hypochondriac traits.

Male Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphic disorder affects both genders equally; however much more research has been done related to females. BDD in men frequently takes the special form of muscle dysmorphia, also known at the Adonis complex. A male with muscle dysmorphia becomes increasingly preoccupied that his body will never be sufficiently lean enough or muscular enough. No matter how much they work out, they continue to feel inadequate, small and frail. They obsessively lift weights for hours a day and become compulsive about their diets and supplements. These behaviors become so excessive that they may result in sacrificed careers and relationships. Some men will seek out surgical remedies such as getting pectoral and calf implants. Many experiment with androgen dietary supplements such as creatine, androstenedione, norandrostenedione, and dehydroepiandtrosterone. In other cases men with BDD will abuse anabolic steroids to become more muscular.

Anabolic Steroids

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