Are you fixated on building the perfect body but feel like you’re falling short? You could be suffering from an increasingly common mental disorder called Bigorexia, or muscle dysmorphia.
This condition causes emotional and psychological distress, impacting an individual’s ability to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
In this article, we’ll explore the signs and treatment options for Bigorexia.
Introduction to Bigorexia
Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a type of negative body image disorder characterized by an intense preoccupation with becoming bigger and more muscular. People who suffer from bigorexia may have an extremely distorted view of their bodies and believe they are underweight or unacceptably small, even when they are actually at—or above—a healthy weight. It is estimated that at least 15% of gym goers have some degree of bigorexia.
The condition typically affects individuals who engage in frequent weight lifting and bodybuilding activities as well as competitive athletes involved in sports such as football, wrestling, or powerlifting. Unfortunately, the pursuit of physical perfection often turns into an unhealthy obsession leading to disruptions in everyday life and potentially damaging physical health consequences. People affected by muscle dysmorphia often experience feelings of guilt and shame stemming from their inability to achieve desired changes in their appearance. This can lead to dangerous behaviors such as steroid abuse or disordered eating patterns associated with extreme dieting or fasting for quick results.
Symptoms of Bigorexia
Bigorexia is an extreme body image disorder that centers around the belief that a person’s musculature is too small. There are many potential symptoms of bigorexia, ranging in severity. Some may be more easily recognizable than others and their effects can take a toll on the individual’s physical and mental health.
- Compulsively working out at the gym or outside regardless of fatigue, injuries, or other barriers
- Superficially examining body parts to measure any changes in physique
- Low body fat percentage due to tight control over diet and calorie intake
- Hearing imaginary ‘flaws’ and discerning contours to abnormal degrees
- Becoming very anxious about body image around strangers or partners
- Loss of self-esteem due to feeling constantly inadequate for not having the desired physique
- Depression at not seeing results from dieting or exercising
- Easily angered when weighed down by performance expectations despite one’s success
Causes of Bigorexia
Bigorexia, also called muscle dysmorphia, is a psychological disorder characterized by an extreme preoccupation with body image and the desire to be excessively muscular. The condition can have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem, social relationships, and overall mental health.
Experts are still researching the causes of bigorexia and other body image disorders, but some possible explanations have emerged from recent studies. For example, cultural messages about physical perfection may contribute to feelings of insecurity in people vulnerable to such messages. Additionally, media images of seemingly ultra-fit celebrities or top athletes may also influence people to strive for appearance perfectionism or muscle size beyond what is healthy for their bodies.
Certain genetic factors may play a role as well. Research has found that some individuals with bigorexia have a gene variant that increases the amount of dopamine in their brains which influences one’s drive and reward system2 while other studies suggest that there could be an abnormality in how people perceive stress when it comes to situations related to body image3.
Also, early life experiences and traumatic events as well as deficiencies in coping skills or self-esteem may predispose someone to develop bigorexia. Finally, it has been suggested that using substances like steroids can increase muscle growth while simultaneously causing addiction and leading individuals into destructive behaviors linked to body dysmorphic disorder4.
Diagnosis of Bigorexia
Diagnosing muscle dysmorphia can be a difficult task as there isn’t a formal psychological evaluation process. Instead, it is important to consider several components that together make up the condition, such as the individual’s perceptions of their body image and the amount of importance they place on physical appearance and performance.
It is also important to rule out other mental health conditions that may be causing similar behaviors, such as anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which is characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a minor or imagined physical flaw. A formal clinical evaluation including questions about current dietary and exercise habits, symptom history, past attempts to build muscle mass, length of time spent thinking about building muscles and any physical consequences from experiences may help provide supporting evidence for diagnosis.
Generally speaking individuals with muscle dysmorphia may report feeling persistent dissatisfaction with their appearance despite already having significant muscle mass for their size; often placing a heavy focus on small details rather than an overall comparison of themselves in context. Intense anxiety related to perceived deviations from prescribed workouts and diets also usually accompanies this condition.
Treatment of Bigorexia
Treatment of bigorexia is generally multidisciplinary and will depend on the individual characteristics and needs of the person. It involves a combination of psychological therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and sometimes family therapy or support groups.
Psychological Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used to treat muscle dysmorphia. CBT helps individuals understand the connections between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It also teaches them how to reassess their thinking patterns to reduce muscle-related distress and better manage patients’ emotions. CBT is an effective treatment for addressing some eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa; however, research on specifically treating bigorexia with this type of therapy is limited but promising.
Anti-Depressant Medication: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac or Lexapro, can help reduce obsessions associated with muscle dysmorphia including an intense drive for muscularity that may impair daily functioning. They are also thought to help manage co-occurring depression symptoms that may accompany the disorder such as low self-esteem and avoidance behaviors.
Lifestyle Modifications: Exercise habits must be adjusted to prevent triggering or reinforcing unfortunate physical or psychological consequences associated with muscle dysmorphia. To decrease body dissatisfaction while promoting healthy lifestyle habits individuals with bigorexia must set goals unrelated to body size or appearance but instead focus on physical fitness improvements like endurance or strength-related exercises that can help restore the balance between body acceptance and improved physical condition effects which in turn can promote healthier outlooks regarding body image overall.
Family Therapy/Support Groups: Professional support groups are designed for people undergoing a similar process which can motivate during difficult times even if progress seems very slow at best because it serves as a sense of unified camaraderie that offers solidarity while striving toward similar outcomes attached by mutual experiences which can contribute significantly towards increased confidence levels essential when working through such challenges experienced by patients dealing with bigorexia. Family therapy is sometimes beneficial when trying to overcome bigorexia since it typically includes discussion related topics intended towards involving family members familiar with the patient’s unique history in addition encouraging family-wide solutions in relation concerning challenges brought about by muscle dysmorphia disparities located within relationships throughout influences within familial structures directly affecting muscles unsatisfaction difficulties existing amongst members across generational lines thereby helping those affected realize potential resolutions towards previsions achieving newfound harmony states for wholehearted acceptance fulfillment lives amidst loving environments destined successful persistences inspiring generous gains both emotionally physically ensuring encouraging futures outwardly honestly truly consistently inevitably indefinitely always forever more remainders no matter what happens from hereon out too evermore then beyond so forward!
Prevention of Bigorexia
Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by an extreme focus on bodybuilding and physical appearance. It affects both men and women who are preoccupied with the notion that they are not muscular or lean enough. The condition can lead to excessive exercising, avoidance of social activities, anxiety, and depression, use of steroids and dangerous supplements, and disordered eating habits. Prevention of bigorexia is possible by understanding the signs and symptoms of this condition.
Preventative measures include:
- Developing a healthy attitude towards body image: Seeking professional help to understand your body image is a great first step in preventing bigorexia. A mental health professional can help you understand the health risks associated with attempting to reach unrealistic fitness goals.
- Educate yourself on exercise and nutrition: To stay healthy without getting caught up in extreme measures such as taking steroids or other dangerous supplements, it’s important to educate yourself on proper nutrition and exercise principles so you can make informed decisions about how to meet your physical activity needs safely.
- Learn healthy ways to cope with stress: Stress management exercises such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness training can help stop feelings of worthlessness from overwhelming you when times get tough.
- Set achievable goals for yourself: Setting realistic goals for your fitness level will ensure that you are taking care of your health without risking injury or excessive strain from trying too hard or too fast.
- Find support from loved ones: Surrounding yourself with people who genuinely care about you will ensure that your well-being continues to be a priority in any decision-making processes around your exercise regime and dieting habits.
Impact of Bigorexia on Mental Health
Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a condition marked by an extreme preoccupation with an individual’s body size and shape. It is often associated with an intense fear of not being muscular enough or feeling inadequate due to being too thin. People with bigorexia can develop very poor body image and low self-esteem which can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress.
Although the exact cause of bigorexia is unknown, certain factors have been identified as contributing to its onset, including genetics, prior experiences with body image insecurities, previous physical or mental illness, and even social/cultural influences around muscle mass and physical appearance. Additionally, certain kinds of anxiety disorders may make it more likely for individuals to suffer from bigorexia.
For those who suffer from this condition in varying degrees of intensity, numerous physical and mental health impacts should be addressed by a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Affected individuals may struggle with a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed or experience difficulty focusing on their work or school performance due to their preoccupation with body size and shape. These individuals might find themselves engaging in compulsive behaviors like excessive exercise or dieting at the expense of normal daily activities such as spending time with family or going out socializing. Extreme dieting protocols like fad diets can lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa that further complicate the situation since they involve serious medical concerns which must be treated separately from the psychological issues associated with bigorexia itself.
Other potential emotional repercussions include isolation from loved ones (due to embarrassment about body image) feelings of shame or guilt over one’s physical appearance, sudden changes in mood (e.g., anger outbursts), avoidance behavior (such as avoiding mirrors), insomnia and even suicidal thoughts and actions.
Coping Strategies for Bigorexia
Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a body image condition characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with the idea of not being muscular enough. It is associated with compulsive behaviors, such as excessive exercise, strict dieting, and using supplements and drugs to build muscle mass. People with bigorexia often feel anxious and inadequate about their bodies and experience low self-esteem. Individuals need to develop effective coping strategies for managing bigorexia and its related symptoms to regain control of their lives.
One therapeutic approach for treating muscle dysmorphia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people recognize and change negative beliefs about body image. Through this approach, a patient can learn new ways of thinking which can help them focus on healthy behaviors instead of unrealistic expectations of their bodies.
Another therapeutic approach targeting these issues involves Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT encourages people to accept the symptom of muscle dysmorphia before working towards changing it. The person learns to live life fully by embracing their unique strengths rather than striving for perfection in terms of physical appearance.
In addition to therapy approaches such as CBT or ACT, here are some practical tips that could help manage bigorexia:
• Practicing mindfulness techniques such as yoga or meditation
• Setting realistic goals by focusing on health rather than aesthetics
• Seeking out body-positive role models who are committed to living an authentic life free from unrealistic body expectations
• Eating a balanced diet and engaging in physical activities that one enjoys regardless of size or shape associated with it • Challenging irrational thoughts through positive self-talk or journaling
These coping strategies can help individuals gain insight into their body image issues and work towards positive change in a safe environment. Seeking professional help can be very beneficial in treating this disorder with long-term success.