Anorexia nervosa is a potentially deadly disease that is marked by a seemingly perverse need to starve oneself. Muscle dysmorphia, a recently identified illness, has some similarities to anorexia in that those who exhibit symptoms are utterly preoccupied by an unrealistic body image. Rather than feeling "fat," as do anorexics, those with muscle dysmorphia see themselves as too "scrawny." They are typically athletes and routinely give up desirable jobs, careers, and social engagements in order to spend hours a day in the gym.
Principal investigator Harrison G. Pope, M.D., of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and his colleagues at Brown University and Keele University, England, discovered the disorder and recount four case studies in the November-December 1997 issue of Psychosomatics.
The people who suffered from this disorder did not go to the beach or the pool for fear that their bodies were not fit to be seen. Many took anabolic steroids to increase muscle mass but were still not satisfied. …