Many Men Suffer from 'Reverse Anorexia'

ByABC News via logo
June 18, 2005, 7:54 AM

June 18, 2005 — -- Women aren't alone in the quest to achieve the "perfect" body -- men are feeling the pressure too.

The difference is that while most women want to get smaller, the men are on a quest to get bigger. The disorder is called muscular dysmorphia and it's changing the face of eating disorders.

Up until three years ago, Michael Lombardi was on a mission for the perfect body.Lombari said he wanted to look "perfect, like Atlas. Everything would be the right size, the right dimensions."

Like many men, Lombardi felt like he didn't measure up to the bodies of men with six-pack abs and sculpted muscles adorning the covers of magazines and in Hollywood movies.

Lombardi's mission for perfection quickly became an obsession.

"I used to go to the gym seven days a week, approximately 4½ hours a day -- two in the morning, two at night and 30 minutes usually in the middle of the day for my lunch break," he said.

But the closer he got to his goal, the further away it seemed.

"It never really ended, because I wanted to get bigger," Lombardi said.

It took four trips to the emergency room from exhaustion and dehydration before Michael realized he had a problem. A doctor soon diagnosed him with muscle dysmorphia -- a mental disorder often described as "reverse anorexia" that affects hundreds of thousands of men.

Lombardi said that no matter how many people told him he looked good, he didn't believe them.

"Men with muscle dysmorphia are worried that they look too small, their bodies are too small, they're puny, they're not muscular enough," said Dr. Kathy Phillips, who treats men with the disorder. "In reality, they look entirely normal. In fact, some of them are incredibly bulked up and muscular."

While impossibly thin women are the female ideal pictured in magazines and movies, men are bombarded with images of six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Researchers say an increasing number of men are unhappy with the way their bodies look.