Tapiwa Chikonyora
Tutor: Sophie Miller


Mental Health – Muscle Dysmorphia


This artifact represents that there is an option and people willing to listen. The right advice is to seek help early, that there is someone else to talk to, and that mental health is an important issue which needs to be addressed the right way. The artifact represents the power of having people to talk to and encourages the youth to talk about their problems rather than keep it to themselves and letting the problem grow.

The public health issue that will be focused on is the mental health issue. Muscle dysmorphia which is a form of body disorder, in which individuals have a pathological preoccupation with their muscularity and, more specifically, an extreme fear that their bodies are too small (Leone, Sedory, & Gray, 2005). Relatively few empirical studies have been completed on muscle dysmorphia, and even fewer studies on the relationship between the drive for muscularity and muscle dysmorphia in men and women. This is an important issue as it has been researched fewer times than any other mental illness disorders and its prevalence is low but it is still something that needs to be focused on.

Literature Review

In today’s world, action figures, men’s magazines, television shows, and movies often portray the ideal body for men. The ideal body for men is “V-shaped” with muscular arms, a broad chest, and a narrow waist. This has resulted in many men, similar to women, being worried about and unhappy with their bodies. Muscle dysmorphia is an emerging phenomenon in society. Pressure on males to appear more muscular and lean has prompted a trend in the area of psycho-behavioral disorders often likened to anorexia and bulimia nervosa (Leone, et al., 2005). Neumark-Sztainer, Story, Hannan, Perry & Irving (2002) write that body dysmorphia disorder affects approximately 1-2% of the population in Australia. Compared to Norwegian study, elite athletes demonstrate significantly higher rates of eating disorders compared to population controls. In one study, 20% of elite female athletes met the criteria for having an ED, compared to 9% of female controls. It is hard to attribute success to sustained political interest, despite mental problems costing the country an estimated 3-4% of its gross domestic product, medications, such as Serotonin and Cognitive behavioral therapy seen to be the best treatment.

However it is difficult to diagnose this disorder in individual as muscle dysmorphia, body dysmorphia, and other eating and body-image disorders can be very difficult to diagnose. The condition often requires that the affected person come forward and ask for help and treatment. Many people with muscle dysmorphia do not recognize that they have a problem or are afraid of becoming weak if they discontinue their habit. According to Mahon (2010) about 50 percent of people known to have muscle dysmorphia refuse treatment. Once a person does come forward and seeks help, though, diagnosis is mostly based on the person's own report of their history and habits. Australia’s youth, in particular, is a demographic in need of attention. Adolescents and young adults aged 16 – 24 compromised 26% of those whom had experienced an episode of mental disorder in the past year, - this is the highest rate of any age group. This bracket was also found to have the greatest prevalence of substance use disorders, with 13% presenting problematic drug and alcohol habits (ABS, 2009)
Muscle dysmorphia differs significantly from the normal comparison weightlifters on numerous measures, including body dissatisfaction, eating attitudes and prevalence of anabolic steroid use, men with muscle dysmorphia frequently described shame, embarrassment, and impairment of social and occupational functioning in association with their condition.

This obsession results in a fear that one is too small, and may lead to such behaviors as compulsive weightlifting and dietary restraint. Cogan, Smith, & Maine (2008) write although there are several behaviors associated with MD, the most common is weight training, as it is a means to gain muscle mass. Those with MD are often recognized as dedicated weight trainers due to the frequency and duration with which they lift weights. The pressure on men comes from another direction, too. Women run companies, fly fighter planes, and pump iron - leaving the boys downright anxious about the meaning of masculinity, for some men, that means more muscle. Indeed, the number of men exercising has increased more than 30 percent since the start of the decade. According to the research firm American Sports Data, last year nine million men belonged to a health club and on average, they went to the gym 88 days a year. However, women with gym memberships for women almost doubling between 1990 (20.7 million) and 2003 (39.4 million)

Cultural and Social Analysis

In the last decade, improvements have been observed in the rates of youth suicide and overall mental health. Between the years of 1997 and 2006, the reported instances of suicide by Australians under the age of 25 had approximately halved, decreasing from 525 in 1997 (425 males; 100 females) (Ruzicka & Choi, 1999) to 266 successful attempts in 2006 (ABS, 2008). Though this decrease is potentially due to underreporting, this data may also be indicative of an improvement in the state of young Australians' mental health.
According to the research based analysis by Pope, Katz, Hudson, (2001) Muscle dysmorphia can affect anyone, but it is more prevalent in males than in females. Although numbers are difficult to estimate, as many as 100 000 people or more worldwide meet the formal diagnostic criteria in the general population. Prevalence among athletes has yet to be ascertained through formal clinical studies, with much of the data having been extrapolated from general population numbers. As social influences change and encourage a more muscular physique, children at progressively younger ages are at increased risk for developing body image disorders such as MDM.
From the moment we are born our brains begin to process information and our first images become our reference point of our lives, with action figures that have the “V” shape body and dolls with large breasts and finger width waists, the “hour glass” shape, we build this idea of the perfect body image. One study by Pope, Phillips, Olivardia, (2001) which adolescent boys were presented with various body types generated on a laptop computer.

Each was asked to select a body type based on 3 questions:
(1) What would you like your body to look like?
(2) What do you think the ideal male body should look like?
(3) What do you think others think your body looks like?

The subjects were presented with various body types and asked to select the one that most closely resembled their own. On the first 2 questions, the boys selected body types that were 30 to 40 pounds heavier than the reference image, whereas answers to the third question revealed that they perceived their bodies to be much thinner and weaker looking than they actually were. Some boys even asked if they could make the largest image bigger. These disturbing findings, which have since been supported by other authors, illustrate how changing ideals of body image can distort perceptions at younger ages. Females participating in sports that stress thinness, such as cross-country running, gymnastics, or dance, males with MDM are typically involved in sports stressing size and strength such as football, wrestling, or competitive body-building, Muscle dysmorphia is not limited to the sporting world. As society bombards people at younger ages with images of what the "ideal" body looks like, MDM will likely continue to increase in the general population (Leone, Sedory, Gray 2005).

(British Journal of Sports Medicine) “As anything that is body or health related can lead to unhealthy and destructive behavior. People with MD are most dissatisfied with the hips, buttocks, thighs and legs”, the researchers wrote. This can be argued by Robert, Munroe-Chandler, and Gammage, (2005) they explain that in order to obtain the “V-shaped” body, many men engage in weight training. Lifting weight leads to many health benefits and may bring men closer to the “V-shaped” body. Unfortunately, some men who lift weights also suffer from severe body dissatisfaction. These men see themselves as smaller and weaker than they actually are, are preoccupied with their muscles, and become consumed with weight training. These men may suffer from body image disorder - muscle dysmorphia. By analyzing Sports medicine, Robert and cohorts, it is not the fact that MD leads to destructive behavior as these mental illness patients are physically attractive and healthy people. It becomes an issue when they look at themselves with dissatisfaction and thus leads to lowered self-esteem, which could lead to the use of anabolic steroids.

Analysis of the Artefact and Learning Reflections

Headspace’s campaign seeks to show that the right advice is to seek help early, that there is someone else to talk to, and that mental health is an important issue which needs to be addressed the right way. The artifact represents the power of having people to talk to and encourages the youth to talk about their problems rather than keep it to themselves and letting the problem grow.


Society puts harsh ideals and standards for slimness in women, but people may not realize that men have it tough too! Some people think that Barbie has produced impossible body standards for women to live up to (Fasanella, 2006). This difference between men and women is very important, because it shows that men as well as women are susceptible to feeling badly about their bodies after viewing certain media, but these feelings are triggered by a different type of media image. In fact, Leit, Gray, and Pope (2001) have shown that the idealized male body type is toward the more muscular; society’s view of muscles is: “Bigger is better.” Women are conditioned to think that: “Thinner is better.” Research has shown, in general, that men strive to be heavier in muscle, whereas women strive to be thinner (Furnham, Badmin, & Sneade, 2002)

Just look at how GI Joe has transformed in the last 50 years! GI Joe now has noticeably more muscular legs and defined abdominals, we can see that these toys are major contributors to the perceived “perfect male body” and paint a vivid image of how MD has affected the general population over the years. This type media has been exploited and exposed to every person and has influenced everyone from birth. They present the perfect model for muscle dysmorphia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008) Mental illness: Australia (Statistical Division). Retrieved fromhttp:www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/2006Census5.nsf/LookupAttach/3052006+Census+Basic+Community+Profile+and+Snapshot29.02.081/$File/20010-BCP-Brisbane-Qld%20(Statistical%20Division).zip
British Journal of Sports Medicine (2002) Muscle dysmorphia a problem for weight-lifters with poor body image. Retrieved from http://www.mydr.com.au/sports-fitness/muscle-dysmorphia-a-problem-for-weight-lifters-with-poor-body-image
Cogan, J. C., Smith, J. P. & Maine, M. D. (2008). The risks of a quick fix: A case against mandatory body mass index reporting laws. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 16.
Cullen, M. (2003). Muscle dysmorphia in weightlifters. British Journal of Sports Medicine 36, 375. Retrieved from //http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/3/280.2.extract//
Fasanella, K. (2006). Why Barbie dumped Ken Retrived from http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/why_barbie_dumped_ken/
Furnham, A., Badmin, N., Sneade, I., (2002). Body Image Dissatisfaction:
Gender Differences in Eating Attitudes: Self-Esteem, and Reasons for Exercise. The Journal of Psychology, 2002, 136(6), 581.
Leone, J. E., Sedory, E. J., & Gray, K. A. (2005). Recognition and treatment of muscle dysmorphia and related body image disorders. Journal of Athletic Training, 40(4), 352. Retrieved from //http://search.proquest.com/docview/206656285?accountid=13380//
Mahon, S. (2010). How muscle dysmorphia diagnosed? Retrieved from http://www.sharecare.com/question/how-muscle-dysmorphia-diagnosed
Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., Hannan, P. J., Perry, C. L. & Irving L. M. (2002). Weight- Related Concerns and Behaviors among Overweight and Non overweight Adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 156 , 171.
Pope H.G, Jr, Katz D, L., Hudson J, I. (1993). Anorexia nervosa and "reverse anorexia" among 108 male bodybuilders. Comp Psychiatry.;34:409.
Pope H,G Jr, Phillips KA, Olivardia R. (2000). The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession. [EBL version]. Retrieved from http://www.qut.eblib.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/EBLWeb/patron/
Robert, C.,A., Munroe-Chandler, K., & Gammage, K.,L. (2009). The relationship between the drive for muscularity and muscle dysmorphia in male and female weight trainers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(6), 1656. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213052750?accountid=13380
Ruzicka, L., & Ching, Y. CHOI. (1999). Youth Suicide in Australia. Journal of the Australian Population Association, 16(1/2), 29//.

Reflective Comments

Page "Young Blokes Don't Cry...But suffer in silence"

Great post, your cultural analysis was great, in addition Durkhiem also believed that youngsters are taught the rights and wrongs of society early in life, with most people conforming to these expectations thought-out adult hood. You could relate this to suicide rates, ones relationship with others and the pressure of society on athletes to perform, which is so strenuous on our moral boundaries that we become so definitive on what is right and wrong. We are so consumed with personality types that we sub-consciously manipulate ourselves. It’s hard to distinguish between the real and fake personality, which we put on when we were outside our homes. The conflict in our brains becomes a major contributor to this destructive behavior.

Page "Drinks and Gen Y? - Bloody Idiots"

I agree society is tightening its grip and too often I am asked why I am not drinking, or how can I enjoy myself without having the slightest bit of alcohol. It is as if we are predisposed to drinking, it is a large part of Australian culture that needs to be readdressed. As you explained it's prevalence in the youth is rising and people are becoming more reckless in the sense of binge drinking. The media can be used to influence many things, but it should come down to the education system to teach the youth the right and wrongs of binge drinking.