Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Muscle Dysmorphia Symptomatology: A Cross-Cultural Study in Mexico and the United States

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Muscle Dysmorphia Symptomatology: A Cross-Cultural Study in Mexico and the United States

Article excerpt

This cross-cultural study examined the nature and correlates of muscle dysmorphia (MD) in Mexicans who lift weights, compared symptomatology in Mexicans to that in Americans, and investigated the roles of bodybuilding and acculturation in the presentation of MD symptoms. The sample consisted of 46 Mexicans and 67 Americans who lift weights (N = 113). Participants completed measures regarding symptoms of MD, engagement in bodybuilding, acculturation, exercise dependency, eating pathology, and steroid use. Contrary to predictions, results indicated similar occurrences of MD symptoms in both samples. MD symptoms were correlated with bodybuilding, exercise dependence and eating pathology in both Mexican and American men, as well as American women. Engagement in bodybuilding in men was similar in both samples; however, in the American sample, bodybuilding behaviors were more related to MD. Acculturation to American culture was not related to symptoms of MD. Steroid use was greater in both samples than in previous studies. Findings are discussed in terms of cross-cultural and clinical implications.

Keywords: muscle dysmorphia, bodybuilding, body image, weightlifters, steroids


Since the identification and description of eating disorders, these illnesses have been considered "women's diseases," (Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000a, p. 18). Research has shown however, that men too suffer from body image dissatisfaction, have preoccupations or insecurities about their bodies, and may even have distortions about their own body image. Men's preoccupations have been found to be different from those of women (Olivardia, 2001). Men have an increasing need to be more muscular (Cafri, Thompson, Ricciardelli, McCabe, Smolak, & Yesalis, 2005; Pope et al., 2000a). Researchers have identified a new disorder resulting from the excessive preoccupation on muscularity and body size: muscle dysmorphia (Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997). Despite the growing literature on muscle dysmorphia (MD), there is still much to be learned about the disorder. Almost all the research on MD has been conducted within the United States and little is known about how the disorder manifests in other countries. Comparing MD among individuals in the U.S. with individuals from other countries is important for understanding the etiology of the disorder and may inform treatment.

Virtually no studies have been conducted comparing MD in Mexico and the United States. This study investigated the nature and correlates of MD symptomatology in Mexicans who lift weights and the relationship to an American sample. Mexico is of particular interest because of "Americanization" over the past twenty years (Contreras, 2009). Since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has seen increased numbers of American companies, changes in consumer trends, increased American media, democratization of their political process, and the increased adoption of English phrases (Contreras, 2009). Increased exposure to American culture may place Mexicans at higher risk for body image disorders. Past research with Latinos has demonstrated that awareness of American cultural ideals of appearance is associated with increased body dissatisfaction (Warren, Castillo, & Gleaves, 2010). Similarly, acculturation to American culture is related to higher rates of eating disorders (Canchelin, Phinney, Schug, & Striegel-Moore, 2006), and greater eating disorder symptomatology (Ayala, Mickens, Galindo, & Elder, 2007; Jane, Hunter, and Lozzi, 1999) in Latinos.

Mexicans who lift weights may adopt practices associated with bodybuilding through contact with American culture. Bodybuilding has a historical presence in the United States and has been accepted into mainstream American fitness culture (Mosley, 2009). MD was initially identified in bodybuilders (Pope et al., 2000a) and bodybuilding has been frequently associated with MD or symptoms of MD (Baghurst & Lirgg, 2009; Hitzeroth, Wessels, Zungu-Dirwayi, Oosthuizen, & Stein, 2001; Lantz, Rhea, & Cornelius, 2002). …

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