BIGOREXIA – What Is Muscle Dysmorphia Disorder?

There are a number of conditions regarding body type and an individual’s perception on their own body composition.

One of the most well known disorders related to body image is anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder caused by the desire to either to be thinner/lighter, or a fear of being fat/overweight.

Conversely to this, is the condition of muscle dysmorphic disorder (MDD), which is otherwise known as bigorexia.

Muscle dysmorphia (via viki) sometimes called “bigorexia“, “megarexia“, or “reverse anorexia“, is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, but is often also grouped with eating disorders.

Affecting mostly males, and many athletes, muscle dysmorphia is obsessive preoccupation via delusional or exaggerated belief that one’s own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual’s build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. Disordered fixation on gaining body mass, as by devoting inordinate time and attention on exercise routines, dietary regimens, and nutritional supplements, is typical, and use of anabolic steroids is common. Usually also present are other, body-dysmorphic preoccupations that are not muscle-dysmorphic.

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Muscle dysmorphia has also been called the “Adonis Complex”, which, however, encompasses broader concerns of male body image. Yet likewise, muscle dysmorphia’s rising incidence is due in part to recent popularization of extreme cultural ideals of men’s bodies. Severely distressful and distracting, muscle dysmorphia’s bodily concerns provoke absences from school, work, and socializing. Perceiving one’s body as severely undesirable, one may avoid dating.  Versus other body dysmorphic disorder, rates of suicide attempts may be especially high. Although likened to anorexia nervosa in females, muscle dysmorphia is mostly unknown and tough to recognize, especially since males experiencing it typically look healthy to others.  By some estimates, 10% of gym-going men experience muscle dysmorphia.

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Bigorexia is a disorder which is more common is males than females, although it does effect both genders. Those who have muscle dysmorphia are likely to participate in resistance training exercise very consistently; they also have a tendency to take steroids and similar muscle building drugs.

One of the most popular arguments in understanding why MDD effects more males than females is that the cultural ideal for a female is to be thin and small, while the ideal for a male is to be strong and big.

Males who feel small and muscularly inadequate may associate their physique with femininity. 

What To Do About Bigorexia?

This is no joke, 10% of males who attend the gym are estimated to experience bigorexia; for someone who’s seriously being affected by it, friends and family may be best to step in and offer support. In most cases, someone living with bigorexia will be hesitant to accept any form of help, as their understanding is that if they are being told to stop doing something, IE: taking a muscle enhancing drug for example, this would likely result in them becoming smaller which is exactly what they do not want.

This means that constant reassurance and compliments are a very important part of helping someone who may be self conscious.

Howerver, using a fat-free mass index (FFMI) calculator could help in stopping people use steroids. There’s a certain amount of muscle your body can hold on its frame depending on your personal body stats; not all people who take steroids necessarily need to in order to achieve their size.

SEE ALSO: Ideal Body Fat Percentage (How Lean Should You Be?)

FFMI has a natural upper limit of around 25. This is actually quite a substantial amount of muscle on a human frame and by just looking at anyone with a FFMI over 20 you’ll be able to instantly tell they’ve worked hard to achieve their physique. Meaning that, if someone is living with MDD and taking steroids with a FFMI below 25, they shouldn’t feel so dependent on taking performance enhancing drugs because they could actually achieve what they’re chasing naturally with less health risks.

In severe cases where individuals simply do not want support, it’s probable that a referral would have to be made to a mental health counsellor if a change is going to be made to the individuals lifestyle through altering their perspective. Cognitive-behavioural therapy can help the individual understand their negative psychological patterns regarding their self-perception. There are also certain medications which can be prescribed for MDD. It’s important to understand that these things should not be pressured onto people though.

CONCLUSION: Bigorexia is a real issue and if you know somebody who may be effected by it you should offer your support and reassurance (and in possible severe cases, refer to a mental health counsellor). Sometimes all it takes to feel more self confident is receiving compliments from people.

Written by Valentin Bosioc

Valentin Bosioc - wellness specialist, certified personal trainer, certified fitness instructor, celebrity trainer, Musclemania Champion, Ninja Warrior Semifinalist, world wide motivator!

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