What is bigorexia? Definition, symptoms, adaptation and more

Bigorexia, also known as muscle dysmorphia, is a health condition that can cause you to constantly think about building muscle in your body.

Bigorexia shares some of the same symptoms as other disorders like anorexia nervosa and is a type of bodily dysmorphic disorder.

Bigorexia appears to be on the increase, especially in young adults. Let’s take a look at the symptoms, risk factors, coping strategies, and treatments available for muscle dysmorphia.

Bigorexia is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as a bodily dysmorphic disorder that triggers a concern with the idea that your body is too small or not muscular enough.

When you suffer from bigorexia, you are obsessed with the idea that there is something wrong with the way your body looks. It can influence your behavior.

Muscle dysmorphia can look like several things, including:

  • spending hours at the gym, pushing your body way beyond its limits, then feeling compelled to come back and start over the next day
  • dieting to lose weight and add muscle that never seems to end
  • hating the body you live in and feeling like these perceived flaws in your body are just as clear to anyone who sees you

When left untreated, bigorexia can get worse and lead to:

Other mental health issues, such as eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, can also play a role in this condition.

There is still a debate in the medical community whether bigorexia should be classified simply as a bodily dysmorphic disorder, or if it has more in common with eating disorders or substance abuse.

Bigorexia is primarily a psychological condition, although it can appear physically.

A person with bigorexia may have some of the following problems symptoms:

  • obsession with appearance, sometimes called mirror checking
  • a fixation on your diet and food supplements
  • use of drugs and steroids related to fitness
  • dissatisfaction with your appearance that leads to depressed moods or anger

Many symptoms of bigorexia can seem relatively normal. But when you’re pushing your body toward fitness goals that always seem out of reach, there may be more to it than just wanting to be in good shape.

It is not always clear who will experience bigorexia.

Like the Mayo Clinic points out, certain life experiences and underlying psychological factors can make you more likely to have body dysmorphia.

Both women and men can have muscle dysmorphia. Negative childhood experiences, such as bullying or teasing about your height, can play a role in this condition.

A Study 2019 of more than 14,000 young people found that 22% of men and 5% of women reported having disordered eating habits related to exercise and muscle.

The same study also found that having other mental health issues can put you at a higher risk for bigorexia. People who participate in bodybuilding, certain sports, or wrestling communities are also more likely to have this condition.

If you have bigorexia, you may be looking for ways to control your symptoms.

While there are some things you can do at home, you may need to see a mental health professional to treat your condition.

Self-care measures

You can start treating muscle dysmorphia today by making changes, including:

You can also start your treatment by calling or starting an online chat with the National Eating Disorders Helpline.

Medical treatments

You may also want to talk to a mental health professional about your symptoms, especially if muscle dysmorphia is impacting your relationships and causing you to consider self-harm.

These treatments can include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify thought patterns and change the way your brain responds
  • exposure therapy / ritual prevention (E / RT) to help you find other ways to deal with negative concerns
  • perceptual retraining to change the way you see your body

If you have muscle dysmorphia as well as other mental health issues, your healthcare provider may recommend a medication such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to help stabilize your mood during treatment.

Living with bigorexia means finding coping strategies that work.

These strategies can help you with your symptoms and give you a sense of control:

  • Participate in recovery and support groups for people with body dysmorphia.
  • Practice meditation and deep breathing exercises.
  • Spend your active time outdoors rather than at the gym.
  • Keep a journal in which you write down your symptoms and how you are feeling.
  • Identify triggers and avoid them whenever you can. A trigger could be anything from a movie where people look like what you think you owe to someone who criticizes your body.

You are far from the only one living with bigorexia, whether you or someone you know experiences these symptoms.

It is now estimated that 1 in 50 people have some type of body dysmorphia. A documentary titled “Bigorexia” shed light on the impact of muscle dysmorphia on the professional bodybuilding community.

Talking to a friend, family member, or other trusted person about your experiences with bigorexia can be a helpful first step in regaining control of your life after obsessing over looking a certain way.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself because of bigorexia or any other mental health issue, contact National lifeline for suicide prevention at 800-273-8255 or text “HOME” at 741741 to speak with an advisor today.

Muscle dysmorphia is a real health problem and the symptoms can be difficult to manage.

More people are becoming aware of body dysmorphia and related issues since public figures including Jane Fonda, Elton John, Princess Diana, Lady Gaga, Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift became honest about their issues. body image.

As more people talk about living with this disease, the stigma and myths surrounding it may be dispelled.

There is help and support for you if you are living with muscle dysmorphia. A mental health care provider can help you start a treatment plan, and changes in self-care can control your symptoms.

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