What Is Bigorexia?
In recent years, the fitness industry has exploded in popularity. This is due to various factors; new and popular fitness methodologies (such as crossfit and martial arts), social media, smartphones, and generally more emphasis on and awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle have all contributed to this rise. In theory, this should all be for the betterment of society – however, it’s rare that cultural shifts aren’t accompanied by some downsides.
With this increased emphasis on appearance, body dysmorphic disorders have become more commonplace. In the past, when people have referred to body dysmorphic disorders, it was most common to be referring to a person suffering from anorexia or bulimia. In these cases, the perceptual disorder stems from never being able to be thin enough. No matter how thin a person suffering from anorexia or bulimia becomes, they often continue to struggle with a perception that they are overweight. While this condition can affect both men and women, these disorders are generally suffered among women. Only about 10% of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are male.
However, another body dysmorphic disorder has crept up in recent decades and has often gone undiagnosed. This disorder is known as Bigorexia, and it is a dysmorphic disorder in which the sufferer is never satisfied with how big and muscular they are.
Who Does Bigorexia Affect? Who Is At Risk For Bigorexia?
Any person who is placing emphasis on their physical outward appearance as it pertains to their size and muscularity is at risk of developing bigorexia. Male bodybuilding populations are at the greatest risk of developing bigorexia, given that the sport is predicated on being big. However, the popularity of bodybuilding, powerlifting and body sculpting have also become more popular with women, so female populations are also at risk of higher prevalence of bigorexia in the coming years.
What Are The Warning Signs of Bigorexia?
People that are experiencing one more or more of the following symptoms may be at risk for Bigorexia. However, it’s important to note that there is a fine line between dedication and dysfunction. It :
- Invasive thoughts of inadequacy, based on size and muscularity
- Extreme anxiety due to missing exercise
- Obsession with diet, to the point of inducing anxiety
- Excessive time spent analyzing and critiquing appearance in the mirror
- Willingness to engage in atypical risky behavior, such as extreme dehydration or anabolic steroid abuse
- Exercising despite injuries
- Low self esteem
What Are The Health Consequences of Bigorexia?
Bigorexia is very similar to anorexia and bulimia in that the dysmorphia can lead to risky behavior. In the pursuit of a goal that can never be reached, the bodybuilder will go to greater and greater lengths to achieve their objective. As a result, dietary habits, supplementation, and training become more extreme over time. Some of these extreme behaviors may include:
- Extreme weight-gain diets
- Extreme weight-loss diets
- Anabolic steroid abuse
- Diuretic abuse
- Insulin abuse
Through these behaviors, it’s not unusual for a bodybuilder of 5’9″ to 5’11” to reach weights of over 300 pounds. The combination of extreme body mass, extreme diets, and the abuse of drugs places a tremendous strain on the body, especially the cardio vascular system.
How Can Bigorexia Be Treated?
If you are experiencing frequent feelings of inadequacy, stemming from a preoccupation with your size and muscularity, you may be experiencing the body dysmorphic disorder known as bigorexia. As with any psychological disorder, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional. A therapist will work with you to explore the cause of these feelings, and work with you to reconfigure the way you think of fitness and muscularity as they relate to your own body.