Studies show that eating disorders affect women more than men. One primary cause is the pressure that the media puts on women to maintain an ideal shape and weight. While some of them develop anorexia or bulimia, others develop muscle dysmorphia. This specific disorder occurs more frequently in men, but women can be at risk too. The side effects that manifest from this disorder make muscle dysmorphia treatment very important.
About Muscle Dysmorphia
The term “muscle dysmorphia” came about in 1997, but some people refer to it as reverse anorexia or bigorexia. Although pressure from the media is a leading cause, many other factors contribute to the disorder. Depression and a lack of self-esteem are two.
With this disorder, people become preoccupied with developing muscle to achieve what they perceive is the perfect shape. However, it involves more than just being a bodybuilder.
Those with this disorder will train even if they miss important events or work. Many of them don’t stop to heal from pain or injuries, either. If they notice anything unusual in their physical appearance, their response is excessive. Because of these issues, they suffer from significant distress.
Even when they’re muscular and lean, it’s never enough. They tend to spend five or more hours thinking about their “underdeveloped bodies” every day. By comparison, normal weightlifters spend up to 40 minutes thinking about their bodies. The disorder also makes people check their appearance up to 12 times per day and constantly compare themselves to others.
Furthermore, people with muscle dysmorphia have extremely strict diets. They rarely eat at restaurants or other people’s homes to maintain control. Body fat percentage is a big concern, and they may even use anabolic steroids to increase muscle gain. All of these behaviors cause unhealthy mental and physical side effects that require muscle dysmorphia treatment.
Muscle Dysmorphia Treatment Approaches
The biggest issue with this disorder is that people don’t recognize that they have a problem. They often need intervention from others to seek muscle dysmorphia treatment.
When they seek help, doctors and nurses typically start treatment by identifying the symptoms. They could use medications to ease these symptoms and provide vitamins and supplements to correct any mineral deficiencies. Then, they use other tests and therapies to find out what led to the disorder.
Medication and Talk Therapy
Muscle dysmorphia has similarities with and can occur alongside other disorders. Because of that, some of the same medications and therapies can correct the behavior and distorted thinking.
With depression, for instance, psychiatrists might prescribe serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are the most popular drugs for treating depression. However, they can be useful for treating compulsive behaviors such as mirror checking and excessive weight training.
The therapies that people participate in during muscle dysmorphia treatment depend on their specific needs. Mild aversion therapy might be useful in reducing compulsive behaviors. It involves rewarding people for not checking their appearance and lifting weights too often. When they do these activities too much, though, they might receive a punishment.
As with other eating disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very effective treatment. The goal of CBT is to change the distorted thoughts that people have. It revolves around the theory that negative thinking leads to negative behaviors and emotions. By changing thought patterns, people naturally have more positive behaviors and feelings.
With people who have muscle dysmorphia, their distorted thoughts include an inaccurate self-image. They also have an impractical perception of how they should look. CBT helps them see how these beliefs cause them harm. It also teaches them coping and life skills so that they don’t obsess with their body image anymore.