Big men feeling small: Childhood bullying experience, muscle dysmorphia and other mental health problems in bodybuilders

Dieter Wolke, Maria Sapouna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Muscle dysmorphia (MD) is a preoccupation with the idea that one's body is insufficiently lean and muscular and considered as a body image disorder in men. This study aimed to investigate the relationship of MD with childhood bullying victimization experiences and mental health problems in a nonclinical sample of male bodybuilders.

Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted with a sample of 100 male bodybuilders.

Methods: Participants completed a questionnaire battery consisting of the muscle dysmorphic inventory (MDI), and scales on childhood bullying victimization, self-esteem, and psychological problems including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms.

Results: High scores on the MDI and bullying victimization in childhood predicted global psychopathology and low self-esteem. Psychological functioning and self-esteem were most strongly adversely affected if the men were victims of bullying and scored high on the MDI (significant moderation effect). Structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses furthermore found an indirect linkage of victimization with global psychopathology and self-esteem via MDI (mediation effect).

Conclusions: Childhood bullying victimization and MD are strongly associated with concurrent anxiety, depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms and low self-esteem. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-604
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • bullying
  • victimization
  • muscle dysmorphia
  • psychopathology
  • self-esteem

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