Steroid Use, Eating Disorders Are Common Among Female Bodybuilders
WebMD News Archive
"While men tend to experience isolated steroid abuse, women who abuse
steroids are more likely to also have insane diets and engage in compulsive
behavior," Gruber adds. "If you are a women at risk for a body image
disorder, had an eating disorder in the past, or are at risk for a substance
abuse disorder, and you start going to a gym, your risk will increase because
you are exposed to people who engage in these unhealthy behaviors"
In the study, 16 of the 25 steroid users reported at least one psychological
effect as a result of anabolic steroid use, including moodiness, irritability,
and aggressiveness. One in 16 of these women reported engaging in a violent act
while taking these drugs. Such acts are often referred to as "'roid
Nineteen women reported at least one medical problem related to steroid use.
Of these, the most serious was kidney failure.
In the study, 55 of 75 women were found to have ED/BT, and 65 of 75 had
muscle dysmorphia, meaning that even though they had big muscles, they still
regarded themselves as small. In addition, 55 of 75 had "nontraditional
gender role," a disorder marked by a preference for typical male clothing,
pastimes, jobs, and friends.
Steven Levenkron, author of the just-published book Anatomy of
Anorexia and a psychotherapist in private practice in New York, tells WebMD
that the "use of high-risk anabolic steroids are perhaps a barometer of how
far women will go to achieve the perfect body." The perfect body tends to
be viewed as being underweight and overmuscled, he points out.
Steve Crawford, MD, associate director of the Center for Eating Disorders at
St. Joseph Medical School in Towson, Md., puts it this way: "Athletes are
under pressure regarding their appearance -- especially in sports like
bodybuilding, diving, gymnastics, and figure skating."
Pressure to achieve abnormal goals regarding appearance may encourage
athletes to engage in self-destructive and unhealthy behavior such as the use
of anabolic steroids, Crawford points out.
James Rosen, PhD, a professor of psychology and the director of the Body
Image Therapy Program at the University of Vermont in Burlington, urges caution
in interpreting the new study findings. "A lot of researchers who study
body disorders and eating disorders are unfamiliar with elite competitive
athletes," he tells WebMD. "The behavior may look like eating
disorders, but the motivation and psychology behind them are very