Use of psychoactive substances, body image and characteristics of personality traits in bodybuilders

Beata Pawłowska 1 , Zofia Zaręba 2  and Emilia Potembska 3
  • 1 2 Department of Psychiatry and Psychiatric Rehabilitation of Medical University of Lublin, Poland
  • 2 Mazovian Centre of Occupational Medicine in Warsaw, Poland
  • 3 Department of Psychiatric Nursing of Medical University of Lublin, Poland


The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of psychoactive substances use as well as the characteristics of body image, self-image, narcissism and stress coping strategies in the group of male professional bodybuilders.

Material and method. The study comprised a group 30 male bodybuilders practising bodybuilding professionally for over 7 years and 30 men who did not practise any sport.

The following research methods were used in the study: Socio-demographic Questionnaire and Eating Disorders and Self-image Survey Questionnaire in Men designed by Pawłowska and Staniewicz, Coping with Stress Questionnaire by Janke, Erdmann, Boucsein, Narcissism Questionnaire by Deneke, Hilgenstock, Müller, Adjective Check List by Gough and Heilbrun in the authorised translation by Płużek.

Results. As compared to the control group, bodybuilders significantly more often use psychoactive agents and have a more negative body image and self-image and show intensified narcissism.

Conclusions: In comparison to the control group:

  1. Significantly more bodybuilders use psychoactive agents: marijuana, amphetamine and ephedrine.
  2. Bodybuilders are characterised by a significantly more negative body image related to the impression of having excessive fat tissue and not sufficient muscle tissue and intensified pursuing to obtain social acceptance.
  3. Bodybuilders are characterised by a significantly more intensified need for dominance, aggression, competitiveness, breaking social rules, being rebellious, impulsive and confrontational.
  4. Bodybuilders are characterised by significantly more intensified narcissistic traits.
  5. Bodybuilders, while in a stressful situation, express compensatory conviction of having better than other people skills to cope with difficulties.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • 1. Engel SG, Johnson C, Powers PS, Crosby RD, Wonderlich SA, Wittrock DA, et al. Predictors of disordered eating in sample of elite Division I college athletes. Eating Behaviors, 2003;4(4):333-43.

  • 2. Beals KA. Disordered eating among athletes: A comprehensive guide for health professionals. Human Kinetics; 2004.

  • 3. Pope HG, Phillips KA, Olivardia R. The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession. New York, NY: The Free Press; 2000.

  • 4. Grieve FG. A conceptual model of factors contributing to the development of muscle dysmorphia. Eat Disord. 2007;15(1):63-80.

  • 5. Olivardia R. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the largest of them all? The features and phenomenology of muscle dysmorphia. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2001;9(5),254-9.

  • 6. Cafri G, Yamamija Y, Brannick M, Thompson JK. The influence of sociocultural factors on body image: A meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Sc Pract. 2005;12(4):421-33.

  • 7. Lantz CD, Rhea DJ, Mayhew JL. The drive for size: a psycho behavioural model of muscle dysmorphia. Int Sports J. 2001;5(1):71-86.

  • 8. Angoorani H, Narenjiha H, Tayyebi B, Ghassabian A, Ahmadi G, Assari S. Amphetamine use and its associated factors in body builders: a study from Tehran, Iran. Arch Med Sci. 2012; 8(2):362-7.

  • 9. Ricciardelli LA, McCabe MP. Self-esteem and negative affect as moderators of sociocultural influences on body dissatisfaction, strategies to decrease weight, and strategies to increase muscles among adolescent boys and girls. Sex Roles. 2001;44(3-4):189-207.

  • 10. Smolak L, Stein JA. The relationship of drive for muscularity to sociocultural factors, self-esteem, physical attributes gender role, and social comparison in middle school boys. Body Image. 2006;3(2):121-9.

  • 11. Bergeron D, Tylka TL. Support for the uniqueness of body dissatisfaction from drive for muscularity. Body Image. 2007;4(3):288-95.

  • 12. Cafri G, Strauss J, Thompson JK. Male body image: Satisfaction and its relationship to well-being using the somatomorphic matrix. Intl J Mens Health. 2002;1(2):215-31.

  • 13. Cafri G, Thompson JK, Ricciardelli L, McCabe M, Smolak L, Yesalis C. Pursuit of the muscular ideal: Physical and psychological consequences and putative risk factors. Clin Psychol Rev. 2005;25(2):215-39.

  • 14. Pawłowska B, Stankiewicz Z. The narcissistic features and eating disorders in male bodybuilders. Curr Probl Psychiatry. 2010;11(4):384-8.

  • 15. Porcerelli JH, Sander BA. Narcissism and empathy in steroid users. Am J Psychiatry. 1995;152(11):1672-4.

  • 16. Keiller S. Male narcissism and attitudes toward heterosexual women and men, lesbian women and gay men: Hostility toward heterosexual women most of all. Sex Roles. 2010;63(7-8):530-41.

  • 17. Irving LM, Wall M, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M. Steroid use among adolescents: Findings from project EAT. J Adolesc Health. 2002;30(4):243-52.

  • 18. Pawłowska B, Stankiewicz Z, Potembska E. [Psychometric properties of Eating Disorders and Self-image Survey Questionnaire in Men (KBZOM II)]. Curr Probl Psychiatry. 2012;13(1):18-24. Polish.

  • 19. Januszewska E. [Coping with Stress Questionnaire. Diagnostic value and test results involving adolescents]. In: Oleś P, editor. [Selected issues from clinical psychology and personality. Diagnostic methods in research involving children and adolescents]. Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe KUL; 2005. p. 91-124. Polish.

  • 20. Januszewski A. [Narcissism Questionnaire. Diagnostic value in the light of results of research involving Polish adolescents]. In: Oleś P, editor. [Selected issues from clinical psychology and personality psychology. Diagnostic methods in research involving children and adolescents]. Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe KUL; 2005. p. 153-196. Polish.

  • 21. Juros A, Oleś P. [Factor and cluster structure of ACL by H.G. Gough and A.B.Heilbrun] In: Brzeziński J, Hornowska E, editors. [From psychometric issues of psychological diagnostics]. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. A. Mickiewicza; 1993. p. 171-201. Polish.

  • 22. Laties VG, Weiss B. The amphetamine margin in sports. Fed Proc. 1981;40:2689-92.

  • 23. Kyrejto JW, Mosewich AD, Kowalski KC, Mack DE, Crocker PRE. Men’s and women’s drive for muscularity: Gender differences and cognitive and behavioural correlates. Int J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2008;6(1):69-84.

  • 24. Mangweth B, Pope HR Jr, Kemmler G, Hausmann A, De Col C, Kreuner B, et al. Body image and psychopathology in male bodybuilders. Psychother Psychosomatics. 2001;70(1):38-43.

  • 25. Blouin AG, Goldfield GS. Body image and steroid use in male bodybuilders. Int J Eat Disord. 1995;18(2):159-65.

  • 26. Cella S, Iannaccone M, Cotrufo P. Muscule dysmorphia: A comparison between competitive bodybuilders and fitness practitioners. J Nutr Ther. 2012;1(1):12-8.

  • 27. Rubinstein G. Macho man: Narcissism, homophobia, agency, communion, and authoritarianism- a competitive study among Israeli bodybuilders and a control group. Psychol Men Masc. 2003;4(2):100-10.

  • 28. Szabo A, Griffiths MD. Exercise addiction in British sport science students. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2007;5(1):25-8.

  • 29. Faganel M, Tusak M. Psychological profile of Slovene bodybuilders. Rev Psychol. 2005;12(1):55-61.

  • 30. Koca C, Asci FH. Gender role orientation in Turkish female athletes. Women Sport Physical Activ J. 2005;14(1):86-94.


Journal + Issues