An increase in men dissatisfied with their body size is leading to some following dangerous dietary and exercise habits.
A potentially dangerous obsession with bodybuilding is increasing among men, according to experts.
Muscle dysmorphia has been described as a reverse form of anorexia, with sufferers believing they are never muscular enough.
Relatively little is known about the disorder, nicknamed ‘bigorexia’, as it was only formally recognised by doctors in 1997.
Dr Stuart Murray, a world expert on muscle dysmorphia, has estimated around 1% of the UK population has the illness or symptoms of it, but that could be just a fraction of the real picture because many sufferers are too ashamed to seek treatment.
“When we look at the literature over the last three decades we’ve seen the number of men dissatisfied with their body triple,” he said.
“There’s data suggesting men would be prepared to sacrifice years off their life for bigger biceps for instance which wasn’t even heard of in the 70s or 80s, in the lay public at least.”
Sufferers often adopt strict dietary regimes and would find it terrifying to miss a gym session.
Dr Murray said: “A gentleman I was working with had a broken wrist and he continued to train because the pain of potentially losing muscle far outweighed the pain of training with a broken wrist.”
Edouard ‘Spyk’ Gheur, a former Hollywood stuntman, bodybuilder and model, used to consume 10,000 calories per day and spend six hours a day, six days a week in the gym.
But despite being 18 stone and abnormally muscular in the eyes of those around him, he still felt small.
He told Sky News: “I just never felt big enough. Every morning I’d wake up go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and I was thinking ‘I need to be bigger’.”
But his obsession came to a dramatic end when he suffered a heart attack after years of using steroids to help him achieve his impossible goal.
His main artery exploded, leaving him in a coma for six weeks.
Among the various theories behind the increase in cases of muscle dysmorphia is the suggestion that men are comparing themselves to the current Adonis-like movie stars.
The editor of Men’s Fitness magazine, Nick Hutchings, said action heroes do appear to have changed shaped in recent years.
“We’ve gone from the likes of Bruce Willis to Jason Statham – the kind of gruff, very manly, but not particularly well-developed guy, to this kind of hyper-ripped star who looks capable of anything.”
However, muscle dysmorphia experts are keen to stress that weight-lifting and visiting the gym are generally healthy activities.