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A look inside muscle dysmorphia: When BIG just ain't cutting it

A look inside muscle dysmorphia

When BIG just ain’t cutting it

It is a disease of the mind, a delusion held by a growing number of males that they just ain’t big enough. It is known by many names – reverse anorexia nervosa, bigorexia, muscle dysmorphia (MD) or the Adonis complex – which all mean the same thing. It is a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) where males exhibit a pathological preoccupation with their muscularity and become obsessed with the idea that they are not muscular enough.

Many experts say that this condition is more widespread than previously thought, as men are unlikely to come forward and discuss their problems openly. According to an article published in the Sunday Times (22 March 2010) a study conducted by the University of Stellenbosch in 2001 found that more than half of a group of amateur bodybuilders in the Western Cape had characteristics of MD.

Anyone who suffers from bigorexia tends to hold delusions that they are “skinny” or “too small” but are generally above average in musculature or, in many cases, have already reached their full natural growth potential. However, bigorexia seems to extend beyond bodybuilding circles and seems to be growing at a rapid rate, especially amongst the youth, due to higher social pressures and shifts in cultural trends and ideals.

....bigorexia seems to extend beyond bodybuilding circles and seems to be growing at a rapid rate, especially amongst the youth, due to higher social pressures and shifts in cultural trends and ideals.

….bigorexia seems to extend beyond bodybuilding circles and seems to be growing at a rapid rate, especially amongst the youth, due to higher social pressures and shifts in cultural trends and ideals.

Those who are afflicted by this psychological condition exhibit a compulsion to weight train, which for most becomes a complete preoccupation leading to exercise dependency. They will often miss important events like birthdays and meetings, and continue training through pain or injury, even with broken bones. In severe cases it has been reported that guys have lost their jobs as they are deemed as interruptions to their training schedule.

This also extends to ergogenic substance abuse, a fixation with diet and excessive use of supplementation, all aimed at achieving excessive muscle growth. Scientists [Olivardia et al (2000)] have noted that about one third of men who suffer from MD also have an eating disorder, such as binge eating or practise extreme eating patterns, like low-fat, high-protein diets. This is common in bodybuilding circles pre-contest, but MD sufferers tend to follow these diets over a prolonged period of time.

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