more on bigorexia

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 08 May 2005 - 02:53:26 GMT

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    I haven't read the book _The Adonis Complex_ yet,, but from second hand sources it seems this is the bible of the new fad in "muscle dysmorphia" research. In my previous post I cited a study that shows some negative impact of brief viewing of muscular male images on the self-assessed body satisfaction of participant men
    (Lorenzen, Greive, and Thomas. 2004. full cite previous post). And it seems some blame could be cast on the media, those evil muscle mags, Arnold movies, Mark Wahlberg underwear ads etc.

    Well childrens toys get their share of scrutiny too, from _The Adonis Complex_ authors. Splete (2003. Keep an eye on muscle-obsessed male patients: 'relatively new phenomenon. Clinical Psychiatry News (31):69) says: ""The Adonis Complex" authors note that the action figures little boys play with are not representative of a body that anyone can obtain without steroids. In other words, they are about as realistic for men as Barbie is for women...Dr. Olivardia and his colleagues did a study of G.I. Joe dolls. The G.I. Joe in the 1970s and 1980s would have corresponded to a normal person, but "now he's increadible" and unrealistic."

    Not sure how central to the theses of the _Adonis Complex_ book this little tangent into children's toys is, but it seems that toys take some flak for societal ills. Does a little boy playing with an overly mesomorphic action figure have much of an influence on what his future ideal body image will be? Do artifacts have this kind of influence on mental content and behavior? Sounds right up memetics alley.

    Oh and let's not leave evolutionary psychology out in the cold. Phillips and Castle (2001. Body dysmorphic disorder in men: psychiatric treatments are usually effective. British Medical Journal (323): 1015-6) say:
    "While the cause of body dysmorphic disorder is unknown and probably multifactorial, involving genetic-neurobiological, evolutionary, and psychological factors, recent social pressures for boys and men to be large and muscular almost certainly contribute to the development of muscle dysmorphia."

    The recent social pressures would be the focus of memetics, but the door is open to what Steven Rose refers to as Flintstone psychology where we can try taking it back to the EEA, like I alluded to in my reply to Bill.

    Phillips and Castle go on to discuss the effectiveness of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in treatmnt of this disorder.

    Though tempting to speculate about evolutionary origins of current maladaptive behaviors, caution might be important. I recall Thom Hartmann's speculations about the evolutionary origins of Attention Deficit Disorders and wonder how much a
    "Just So Story" that was.

    But at least as a matter of proximate causation we could think in terms of cultural factors that impact body image, even if not deleteriously as in the cases of anorexia and bigorexia.

    And what other images influence our sense of self? I've often pondered the automobile as an extension of ego or self. My recent post about lowering trucks and about stereo systems is related to self-perception. Maybe an automobile isn't an integral part of your body, but it at least plays into self-image or self-perception as do clothes. My dad often joked about how many kids listening to loud music would wind up with hearing problems later in life. Could the competition for the loudest automobile sound system have had deleterious health consequences comparable to wanting to have the biggest biceps?

    Another competitive arena wrt automobiles has been engine power. This was prevalent in the *muscle* car era, but this tendency still exists. Look at the new retro Mustangs that harken back to the pony cars. Kids dig hot rods. In the quest for the fast car and in the ways of proving one's superiority in horsepower how many times have people placed themselves and others in harm's way (ie- illegal street racing and such). Hot rods are another case of strong directional selection
    (approaching runaway status). Think in terms of a street car with a big block motor, a supercharger and nitrous (like the cars on Mad Max). When does this tendency get out of hand? Have you seen some recent movies like "Too Fast Too Furious" and "Gone in 60 Seconds". These movies didn't appear ex nihilo without foundation in reality. Can we blame this on kids toys too? Those Hot Wheels toys and plastic model sets that require glue and paint and decals aren't as innocent as we assume ;-)


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