Attachment Style and Risk of Muscle Dysmorphia in a Sample of Male Bodybuilders

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In Western countries, body image has become an essential feature of male representations in recent decades. This is especially true of prominent muscularity, which has been traditionally linked with the concept of masculinity. This tendency has also emerged in the Italian context where it was easily assimilated into the traditional Italian stereotype of men being strong and virile. In this context, the practice of bodybuilding has progressively gained popularity as a means of achieving an ideal body image. Among bodybuilders, pathological preoccupations with muscle can sometimes develop. This condition has been defined as muscle dysmorphia (MD). Although a few studies discuss this disorder and its psychological correlates, no studies have examined the link between the risk of developing MD and attachment style in men. Given that attachment affects body image satisfaction and related disorders, the aim of this paper was to study the relationship between MD and adult attachment style in male bodybuilders. In the present study, 170 Italian male bodybuilders completed an anonymous online survey. Data were obtained about their demographic features, attachment styles, and risk of developing MD. Using the dimensions of adult attachment, bodybuilders who were at risk of developing MD were compared with those who were not at risk of developing MD. The findings indicated that a link exists between the risk of developing MD and having an insecure avoidant attachment style. This finding suggests that nonoptimal relationships with caregivers early in life can be a risk factor for developing MD later in life. Further studies need to examine the connection between individuals’ relational history and their development of MD.

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