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What is bigorexia and what are the signs?

Bigorexia is an anxiety disorder that’s hitting the headlines, as it’s feared that 1 in 10 men who regularly go to the gym could be suffering from it.

What is bigorexia?

But what is bigorexia? It's also sometimes referred to as 'muscle dysmorphia' or 'reverse anorexia' and it has become more of a concern in recent years as research shows that men are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their perceived body image. Although it’s far more likely to affect men, women have been known to suffer from the condition as well.

Spotting the signs of bigorexia

Typically, those suffering with bigorexia will become obsessed with the size of their muscles and will have excess concerns about appearing physically weak or underdeveloped. Other symptoms may include:

  • Overexerting themselves at the gym
  • Working out compulsively
  • Use of steroids
  • Excessively looking at their body in the mirror
  • Abuse of supplements and constantly drinking protein shakes
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Depression and mania
  • Panicking if a gym session is missed
  • Forcing themselves to train even if they’re injured
  • Prioritising working out over family and social life

Causes of bigorexia

Unfortunately, experts don’t yet have a clear understanding of what causes bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia. However, like other compulsive disorders, research suggests that there are a number of factors which could contribute to it:

  • Genetics - those who have a relative suffering from the condition may be more likely to develop it
  • Brain differences - it’s thought that people with muscle dysmorphia may have insufficient levels of serotonin, which is an important transmitter in the brain that affects mood and wellbeing
  • Environment - childhood environment, family issues, bullying, emotional trauma and cultural factors may increase a person’s risk of developing the condition
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