Thursday, March 18, 2010
Body dysmorphic disorder (dysmorphophobia) is a preoccupation somatoform disorder marked by obsessive thoughts of physical inadequacy. In females, dysmorphophobia often manifest as an excessive focus on buttocks, hips, and breasts. Men, however, may worry more about their physique/build or height. Cultural and social norms largely influence self-image and can contribute to the development of dysmorphophobia by setting unrealistic physical ideals. Often these standards are unrealistic because the model form is digitally enhanced or edited and may even be represented by individuals that go to extremes to alter their natural forms such as by plastic surgery, drugs, and other unsustainable lifestyle choices. Because these images are mostly presented through the media, they are associated with glamour, success, happiness, and fame. Some may think that they are less accomplished or valued if they do not meet these standards while others may feel aesthetically mediocre. Most of my patients and active readers probably know that I can personally identify with the mindset of an individual that struggles with dysmorphophobia as I have been actively involved in physique competitions promoted by the bodybuilding and fitness industry. Fitness and health is a growing social forum and holds many ideal images and Americans invest billions of dollars a year just to become part of it. Female physique athletes strive for the upper percentile of “super fitness”. Competitors that excel in these circles may obtain a significant amount of fame, recognition, and validation through commercial endorsements, publications, and/or building a presence in the entertainment industry. During competition, they are judged on symmetry and poise as well as muscular development and definition that are possible only by maintaining extremely low levels of bodyfat combined with he ability to build large amounts of muscle. In addition, water manipulation and dehydration, caloric depletion, and severe dietary restrictions are generally added to a contest regimen to obtain a competitive physique. These measures can introduce medical complications if sustained for more than 1-2 weeks or if done without taking necessary precautions during the process. Some competitors also abuse laxatives, steroids, and other drugs to help meet their competition goals. Unfortunately, the majority of competitors in the fitness industry implement illegal or unnatural assistance to obtain their physiques making the standard unrealistic and unattainable for most unwilling to use these same strategies at the price of their health and well-being. In the end, you have another avenue for the development of dysmorphophobia amongst aspiring fitness enthusiasts and entrepreneurs in the health and wellness industry that fail to meet these expectations.
It is important to work toward realistic goals that ultimately contribute to overall health and wellness as well as your individual sense of confidence and achievement.
Stay tuned for more tips on attaining personal fitness and meeting athletic goals!