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Men Who Use Steroids Have Narrow View of Masculinity

Poor body image and stereotypical view of male ideal common among steroid users

WEDNESDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Stereotypical ideals of masculinity and poor body image are common among men who use anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), according to a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Harrison G. Pope, Jr., M.D., of McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Belmont, Mass., and colleagues measured self-esteem, body image, muscle dysmorphia ("reverse anorexia nervosa"), eating behaviors, and attitudes and perception of male roles among 89 heterosexual men who lifted weights regularly, 48 of whom used AAS and 41 of whom did not.

In general, AAS users and nonusers had similar profiles for most of the measures. However, AAS users had a greater preponderance of signs of muscle dysmorphia, such as not allowing their muscles to be seen in public or giving up activities they enjoyed because of concerns about their appearance. While the profile of short-term steroid users hardly differed from nonusers, long-term AAS users showed significant and striking differences in terms of muscle dysmorphia and conventional ideals of masculinity.

"Although our cross-sectional observations cannot confirm that these factors help to cause or perpetuate AAS use, a causal hypothesis is certainly plausible," the authors conclude. "If these factors are indeed causal, then AAS users might respond to cognitive behavior approaches that simultaneously take aim at both types of maladaptive beliefs."

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