THURSDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Men obsessed with muscle-building lean toward traditional ideas of masculinity, while men fixated on being thin likely associate with more feminine stereotypes, according to new research.
Guys consumed by the idea that they are not muscular enough have a disorder called muscle dysmorphia, popularly known as "bigorexia."
It had been believed that sexuality was one of the main factors behind muscle dysmorphia in men, but this study suggests that how men view themselves is more important, according to the Australian researchers, whose study results are published in the March 27 issue of the Journal of Eating Disorders.
The researchers had a group of men complete a questionnaire designed to find out how they viewed themselves in comparison to common stereotypes of masculine thoughts and behaviors.
Men with a strong desire for being muscular had a greater preference for traditional masculinity, while those with a high drive for thinness (as in anorexia nervosa) leaned more toward feminine roles, the study found.
"This does not mean that that the men with anorexia were any less masculine, nor that the men with muscle dysmorphia were less feminine than the control subjects we recruited," study leader Stuart Murray, a clinical psychologist, said in a journal news release. "It is, however, an indication of the increasing pressures men are under to define their masculinity in the modern world."
He and his colleagues noted that research over the past several decades has shown that a growing number of men say they are unhappy with their body image. This may show itself in either a desire to lose weight and become thinner or to gain weight and build muscle.
This can lead to problems if a person abuses steroids or adopts unhealthy eating habits, or if the compulsion to exercise overwhelms normal life and leads to loss of sleep, reduced quality of life or even an inability to hold a normal job, the researchers said.