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Muscle dysmorphia

Pronounced /ˈmʌsl dɪsˈmɔːfɪə/Help with pronunciation

Sometimes known as bigorexia, this could be a new psychiatric disorder. Research in the US and in Britain among bodybuilders suggests that some of them exercise obsessively because they have a false image of themselves. No matter how much they work out they still feel puny, leading them to hide from other people or wear baggy clothing to disguise their body shape. Of those interviewed in a recent study about 10 per cent of male bodybuilders and 84 per cent of female ones had symptoms of the disorder. It appears to be an inverted anorexia, in fact another name for muscle dysmorphia is reverse anorexia nervosa, and is a special case of a more general and better-known condition called body dysmorphic disorder. In that, individuals believe that there’s something wrong with their body, perhaps that their nose is too big, ears the wrong shape, or that their breath smells, and sometimes become sensitive about their imagined affliction to the point of shutting themselves away from other people. The word dysmorphia on its own usually indicates a genetic condition in which a part of the body has grown out of proportion. The study of these conditions is dysmorphology and the adjective is dysmorphic, which is also the noun for a person with one of the psychiatric varieties of the disorder.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 6 Dec. 1997
Last updated: 10 Jan. 1998

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-mus1.htm
Last modified: 10 January 1998.