Q+A: What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

by Matt Brzycki


What is muscle dysmorphia?

People with muscle dysmorphia-a term first used in 1997-are dissatisfied with their bodies, have low self-esteem and are preoccupied with their muscularity. Originally, the condition was called reverse anorexia. In people with anorexia, no matter how much fat they lose, they still see themselves as too big; with muscle dysmorphia, no matter how much muscle they gain, they still see themselves as too small.

In one review and meta-analysis published in February 2017, researchers pooled data from 31 studies with 5,880 subjects (average age 28). They found a positive association between muscle dysmorphia and psychological disorders such as anxiety, social physique anxiety, depression, neuroticism, perfectionism and low self-esteem. As might be suspected, muscle dysmorphia is more common among bodybuilders than those who simply do weight training.

Many people who weight train want to increase their muscular size, but with muscle dysmorphia, the urge can become unhealthy.


Mitchell, L., et al. 2017. Muscle dysmorphia symptomatology and associated psychological features in bodybuilders and non-bodybuilder resistance trainers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47 (2), 233-59.

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