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Body Image and Psychopathology in Male Bodybuilders

Mangweth B.a · Pope Jr. H.G.d · Kemmler G.a · Ebenbichler C.b · Hausmann A.a · De Col C.a · Kreutner B.c · Kinzl J.a · Biebl W.a
Departments of aPsychiatry and bInternal Medicine, Innsbruck University Clinics, and cInnsbruck University, Austria; dBiological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass., USA Psychother Psychosom 2001;70:38–43 (DOI:10.1159/000056223)


Background: To compare male bodybuilders to men with eating disorders and control men regarding body image, psychopathology and sexual history. Method: We compared 28 male bodybuilders, 30 men with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating disorder defined by DSM-IV), and 30 controls, using a battery of questionnaires covering weight history, eating behavior, body image, lifetime history of psychiatric disorders, and sexuality. Eating-disordered and control men were recruited from a college student population and studied during the course of an earlier investigation. Results: Bodybuilders exhibited a pattern of eating and exercising as obsessive as that of subjects with eating disorders, but with a ‘reverse’ focus of gaining muscle as opposed to losing fat. Bodybuilders displayed rates of psychiatric disorders intermediate between men with eating disorders and control men. In measures of body image, the bodybuilders closely resembled the men with eating disorders, but significantly differed from the control men, with the former two groups consistently displaying greater dissatisfaction than the latter. Sexual functioning did not distinguish the three groups except for the item ‘lack of sexual desire’ which was reported significantly more often by both bodybuilders and men with eating disorders. Conclusion: On measures of body image and eating behavior, bodybuilders share many features of individuals with eating disorders.


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