Muscle Dysmorphia



How social media is changing the way men build and think about their bodies


According to the Harvard psychiatrist Harrison Pope, M.D., M.P.H., constant exposure to extremely muscled images in popular culture can lead to a condition called muscle dysmorphia. In a recent JAMA article, Pope defines this as “a form of body image disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a muscular appearance.” Most men with the disorder strength-train; yet they “describe dissatisfaction with their body size and shape and are preoccupied with the idea that their body is insufficiently muscular.”

This quote comes to mind when Hadzovic tells me he recently gained 26 pounds of muscle to bump up from the Men’s Physique category to Classic Bodybuilding. The reason, he says, is that at 5’11” and 180 pounds of perfectly chiseled beef, “I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. As guys, we start working out because we want to get big. I wanted to get bigger.”

That said, Hadzovic displays none of the traits of muscle dysmorphia, which, Pope writes, include “elevated rates of mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive and compulsive behaviors, substance abuse, and impairment of social and occupational functioning.” On the contrary, Hadzovic is friendly, upbeat yet relaxed, and genuinely engaged with friends and fans, socially and occupationally.

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