Bigorexia in body builders

Bigorexia in body building community

When you are in gym or fitness center you might see some people with heavy muscles and getting trained, working hard to build muscles. Bigger is better is what these people think, and they are commonly called “bodybuilders”. For some it is a profession and they participate in competition throughout the year. Their goal is to win the championship and become a figure model!  Figure models are competitive body builders. It takes unnatural level of self-discipline to get into that shape.

At some point bodybuilding goes too far and leads to a psychiatric disorder called muscle dysmorphia also known as bigorexia or reverse anorexia.  This condition is gaining attention for all wrong reasons. Nearly 2 percent of people who are into body building in US alone are suffering from this disorder. The number might look small, but it is one in 50 Americans who struggle to keep their constant bodybuilding with different methods. According to a study this symptom affected over 10 percent of existing bodybuilders who even used steroids for body building.

Who develops bigorexia?

Bigorexia is most commonly seen in men and can occur in both genders. Exercise addiction can result in development of bigorexia. Work environments where image, weight and appearance are important factors of their job such as modeling, acting, dancing, body building, ice skating etc.  are at the risk of developing bigorexia. If a person has a history of being bullied for appearance in childhood and watching domestic violence (mental trauma) are other reasons for bigorexia.

What are symptoms of bigorexia?

  • People especially men who have muscle dysmorphia or bigorexia are generally preoccupied with body image and wish to look very muscular.
  • They be afraid of losing muscle and weight, a feeling of withering away.
  • They go for excessive exercise and aim at bulking up by building muscles.
  • Often their focus is on themselves in terms of body building and neglect their life activities. Most of the time they spend their life in training, fitness centers.
  • If the goal is to become a figure model that person’s life will be dedicated to the fitness center more than ever. They workout 2 to 3 hours in the day and their eating habit will change considerably. Every day, every minute of their gym life their goal is to be bigger and better than last time.
  • Often, they say “no pain, no gain” which means hardcore workout to develop body.
  • Using steroids and/or other body building products
  • Ignoring family time, skipping work and spending more time in gym
  • Working out even in fever, pain or in injury
  • Depending on excessive amounts of food supplements

What is the risk of muscle dysmorphia?

According to Stuart Murray a clinical psychologist and co-director of National Association for males with Eating disorders patients with MD often display “disordered eating, rigid rules of protein consumption, having to eat every X number of hours, having to eat X number of grams of protein per body weight, and distress if one deviates from those. And we see pretty compulsive exercise practices usually oriented to the development of muscularity”

Muscle dysmorphia is a psychiatric condition that is hitting every gym almost in every part of the world and for some it can be a threat to health. According Maik Wiedenbach, Olympic class athlete, it is normal in body building wanting to get bigger and better. A person can do it and stay healthy. But people who develop bigorexia does not think anything else. All they want is to get bigger and better and that ruins their lives.

Body building is not pathological. Healthy body building in terms of sports and balancing other priorities in life is possible.  However, people will take it in a negative manner and that increases the risk factors. Those who suffer from muscle dysmorphia often display misperception about their body. They believe they are undefined and small. They feel fear of losing weight and getting smaller in their social circle. In the name of building musculature, they even keep family life away.

Potential risks of bigorexia are: damaged muscles, joints, cartilage, tendons, ligaments due to heavy weight lifting regiments and not allowing muscles to rest or recover from irritations or injury.

Those who have the symptoms and hitting gym daily to build muscles should consider treatment in order to avoid the dangerous side effects. It is possible to overcome the disorder with proper treatment. During treatment doctors will help in addressing underlying issues, help in coping methods and suggest how to deal with body image stress. This will bring back a person to healthy lifestyle.


Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: March 4, 2019

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