Muscle dysmorphia or bigorexia is a condition that most commonly affects males, though females may also be affected. It is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder wherein the individual is obsessed with his muscle size and develops a deep desire to develop very large muscles.
The individual therefore follows extreme forms of diet and strenuous exercises to build a big and muscular body. The condition is also referred to as ‘reverse anorexia.’ In anorexia, a person diets excessively due to a fear of gaining weight. In contrast, in bigorexia, the person eats excessively especially high-protein foods to develop a big body.
Though the exact cause of bigorexia is unknown, studies indicate that it could be due to a combination of various factors which may include:
• Genetic factors
• Insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain, which is an important brain chemical that determines the mood and well-being of an individual
• Environmental factors like troubled families, extreme stress, and other emotional and cultural factors
Studies suggest that muscle dysmorphia is often found in individuals who are involved in weight lifting and other muscle development activities.
The obsession with the body interferes with activities of daily living. Individuals spend excessive time working out in the gym, dieting and comparing themselves to others. Some abuse anabolic steroids or other supplements in attempt to build body mass faster. Bigorexia can damage relationships and result in loss of job. Individuals have a poor quality of life with high suicidal tendency.
Bigorexic individuals tend to be at a higher risk of health complications due to excessive workouts and extreme dietary regimens. The most common complications include injury and damage to muscles, joints and tendons, health hazards due to overuse of steroids and body-building supplements, and poor social and professional life. Bigorexia can affect the mental health of the person resulting in anxiety, depression and even suicidal tendency.
Treatment of bigorexia includes cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressant medications or a combination of both.