Vigorexia - Symptoms, Causes, Consequences and Treatments of Muscle Dysmorphia

Bigorexia or muscular dystrophy has been an increasingly common disease in recent years. Particularly in young male athletes who are passionate about bodybuilding.

One of its leading causes is low self-esteem and the need to reach the aesthetic standards of a society of cult of the physique. However, they are not the only factors involved.

This article analyzes bigorexia’s causes, consequences, characteristics, and symptoms.

What is bigorexia?

Bigorexia Nervosa or muscle dysmorphia is a psychological disorder associated with the constant need to increase muscle mass. A person with bigorexia is considered excessively thin and constantly needs to increase their muscles’ size.

Bigorexia is often called the Adonis complex. This term refers to the Greek god known for his statuesque body.

Bigorexia is a disease opposite to anorexia: the eating disorder that leads a person to lose weight. In both cases, the causes are similar, and one of the symptoms is taking bodyweight to limits that are not safe for health.

Causes and symptoms of bigorexia

Every year the number of people who feel dissatisfied with their bodies increases. In 1972, 15% of Americans were dissatisfied with their appearance, while in 2010, this percentage reached 43%.

In adolescents, the figures are even higher; up to 80% confirmed that they want to change some characteristic of their body. (2) Lack of acceptance is the leading cause that motivates people to try to achieve muscle hypertrophy excessively.

The leading causes of bigorexia are:

  • Genetic predisposition to suffer from phobias
  • Bad experiences in adolescence
  • Living in a cult of physique society
  • Hypomania
  • Tendency to compulsiveness
  • Low selfsteem

For people with muscular dysmorphia, achieving a healthy physique is not enough. So they continue to train more and more.

The symptoms of bigorexia are:

  • Tendency to self-medication
  • Follow strict diets
  • Continually looking in the mirror
  • Weigh yourself every day
  • Dedicate free time to training
  • Social isolation
  • Disproportionate body.

Muscle Dysmorphia Figures: How Many People Have Vigorexia?

There are no homogeneous data or studies that show how many people with bigorexia there are in Spain. The estimated figure is 10,500 as a minimum and 700,000 as a maximum. It is estimated that 6% of gym users suffer from this disorder. (1)

In the United States, the numbers are even higher. The use of anabolic steroids is more prevalent in this country.

Most Americans are unhappy with their bodies, which creates a risk of low self-esteem, use of dangerous substances, eating disorders, and depression. The need for a perfect body or image is one of the leading causes of bigorexia. (2)

Characteristics of people with muscle dysmorphia

People with bigorexia do a lot of physical exercises, with the declared objective of reaching a particular muscle mass more significant than they possess. The amount of time they spend exercising makes it difficult for them to adapt socially, as a couple, and

Those affected have an alteration in body image, so they believe they are weaker and thinner than they are. The most frequent characteristics of bigorexia are (1) (2):

  • Men between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Maladaptive behaviors
  • Inadequate diet
  • Consumption of drugs or drugs dangerous to health.
  • They do not accumulate objects or money
  • All thoughts are focused on the physical aspect

Treatment of muscle dysmorphia

The first step to freeing yourself from this psychological disorder is to eliminate the consumption of anabolic steroids and other drugs capable of increasing testosterone and growth hormone. People with bigorexia are recommended to undergo psychological treatment to determine what the personal causes are.

Studies suggest that the best treatment for bigorexia is behavioral therapy focused on body image, anxiety, rituals, moods, and self-esteem. It can be complemented with pharmacological treatment (antidepressant and anxiolytic) in some cases. (2)

Vigorexia testimonials

The authors of  The Adonis Complex interviewed Scott (3), a 25-year-old man. Scott is 178 cm tall, weighs 83 kg, and his subcutaneous fat level is 7% (only 2% of men have such a low level). Its thoracic perimeter is 120 cm, its waist is 80 cm, its abdomen is marked, and the shoulders are broad.

People with bigorexia cannot skip a gym day. Otherwise, they tend to become depressed and feel anxious.

Bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia is a psychological disorder associated with the compulsive need to increase muscle mass. Bigorexia is more common in young men with negative experiences in adolescence. The leading causes are the pressure of society toward the cult of sport and genetic tendencies to obsession.

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