What is Bigorexia?
Bigorexia is an anxiety disorder in which a person is constantly thinking about building muscles on the body. It is a type of body dysmorphic disorder and shares the same symptoms as anorexia nervosa. Bigorexia is sometimes also referred to as muscle dysmorphia.
It is estimated that 1 in 50 people have some type of body dysmorphia.(3)
Those with bigorexia have a constant fixation on the thought that there is something wrong with the way the body looks. This thought influences their behavior.
Bigorexia is most likely to affect men, but females are also known to suffer from it. It can lead to many things, including:
- Spending long hours at the gym and pushing the body far beyond its limits
- Following a diet that helps lose weight and gain muscles
- Hating own body and feeling as these shortcomings of the body is visible to everyone
If not treated, bigorexia can escalate to:
Bigorexia can also result from disordered eating and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What Causes Bigorexia?
Both women and men can have bigorexia.
Negative experiences during childhood such as bullying and teasing on body size can play a major role in suffering from Bigorexia.
A study done on 14000 young people in 2019 found 22 percent of males and 5 percent of females having disordered eating patterns linked to working out and getting more muscular.(1)
Also, there are certain mental health conditions that can put you at risk of bigorexia.
Research suggests the following factors can contribute to the risk of bigorexia(2):
- Genetic factors
- Insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain, that plays an important role in the mood and well being of an individual
- Environmental factors such as stress, cultural and emotional factors
Symptoms of Bigorexia
A person with bigorexia would experience the following symptoms:
- Being highly obsessive with the appearance and would constantly check himself out in front of the mirror.
- Fixation on a diet or certain supplements
- Using fitness-related steroids and supplements
- Being dissatisfied with the appearance to an extent that can lead to depression
- Forcing the body to train even if injured
There may be some mental symptoms such as:
- Irritability and angry outburst
- Depression and mania
- Panicking about missing a gym session
- Prioritizing working out or spending time on any fitness regimen over family and social life
Most of the symptoms of bigorexia feel completely normal. But, if you find yourself pushing your body beyond your limit to achieve a fitness goal that may seem out of reach, something is going on more than just trying to be in good shape.
Treatment of Bigorexia
Those with bigorexia may be looking forward to controlling their symptoms.
Along with visiting a mental health provider to treat your condition, certain things can be done at home as well.
Following changes can be brought about in daily life to get over bigorexia, which includes:
- Limiting the exercising time to 30 minutes to one hour in a day.
- Stopping the usage of protein shakes steroids and other fitness supplements.
- Deleting calorie tracker and other fitness applications from the mobile
- Identifying other behaviors playing role in this condition such as binge eating, purging, smoking, and heavy alcohol drinking.
If you find bigorexia is impacting your relationships and making you consider self-harm, think about speaking with a mental health professional. In such cases medical treatment is considered, that includes:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy helps identify patterns and change the way the brain responds.
- Exposure therapy or ritual therapy: This helps in finding alternative ways to cope with negative preoccupations.
- Perceptual retraining: This helps the way you see your body.
- Medication: There are certain medications recommended by a mental health professional to stabilize the mood during treatment.
How To Cope With Bigorexia?
Coping strategies help with the symptoms and give a sense of control. The coping strategies include:
- Participating in recovery and support groups meant for people with body dysmorphia.
- Meditation and deep breathing exercises
- Spending time outdoors
- Writing down symptoms in a journal
- Identifying triggers and avoiding them.