People lifting weights to look good risk reverse anorexia

1 Jun 2022

Research from The University of Queensland has found people lifting weights for aesthetic reasons run the risk of developing muscle dysmorphia.

Also called ‘reverse anorexia’ or ‘bigorexia’, muscle dysmorphia is characterised by obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviours and body image distortion, with sufferers seeing themselves as smaller than they are. 

Black man with large, tattooed muscular arms leaning in to look at himself in a gym mirror.
Sufferers of muscle dysmorphia see themselves as smaller than they are. Image: Pexels

UQ Anthropologist Dr Mair Underwood teamed up with renowned Harvard expert Roberto Olivardia in the first study to include an insider’s perspective on the disorder.

Dr Underwood said muscle dysmorphia was first identified in bodybuilders, the people who are also most likely to suffer from it.  

“Bodybuilding is a risk environment for mental health, and with so many young people building their bodies to look good, the dangers of developing muscle dysmorphia can’t be ignored,” she said.

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This study was published in the journal Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine (DOI: