• Dr Ferraro

Bigorexia a dysmorphia that people do not want to talk about

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

The "bigorexia", also known as "muscle dysmorphia", or "reverse anorexia", is an increasingly common disorder among mostly amateur athletes. Patients affected by this syndrome, perceived themselves always skinny and small, while exhibiting a hypertrophic, excessively large body, gained by trying to reach an ideal physique, but without succeeding according to their standard.



The term bigorexia was used for the first time by Harrison Pope Jr. who defined it as "an altered perception of one's body image that can result in a manic application of physical exercise" and in the most severe scenario leads to adoption of unbalanced diets, often accompanied by an incorrect use of artificial substances, with grave consequences for the health.


Patients fall into this spiral by trying to emulate characters with exaggeratedly muscular bodies. They seek at any costs and by any means to resemble these idealised physique, even by introducing doping and others dangerous substances into their body.

People who suffer from this syndrome very often ignore the importance that hereditary genetic factors and the results that hard-correct training can have on them; you do not need to be a "manic sportsman" to become a great sportsman.


The people most affected by this disorder are males, aged between 18 and 40 years. People who suffer from bigorexia show obsessive-compulsive attitudes, continually showing concern for their physical fitness both for fear of regressing compared to what they acquired and for the constant effort to improve their muscle dimensions.

The symptoms of bigorexia can be summarised as follows


  • manic training: excessive body care and excessive number of hours spent training


  • high protein diet: abuse of supplements and manic search for low-calorie foods


  • perceptive distortion of the self-image: perennial dissatisfaction with their body despite the sacrifices and time spent training


  • unhappiness: which in the most severe situations it can lead to depression.

However, the bigorexia syndrome should not give the idea (utterly wrong) that is then better not to practice sports, as it is above all an excellent form of prevention against many diseases and creates a healthy feeling of satisfaction generated by endorphins released during motor activity. Nevertheless is necessary to find the right balance, since the physical activity must represent a psycho-physical path of contentment and happiness, and not a maniacal obsession.


References


Pope HG Jr, Phillips KA., Olivardia R. The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession, Simon and Schuster 2000.


De Pascalis Pier Luigi, Vigoressia. Quando il fitness diventa ossessione. Il Pensiero Scientifico, MI 2013.


Ferrari E, Ruberto MG. La bigoressia o dismorfofobia muscolare: una nuova patologia emergente. Pavia University press Vol 125 n°2, 2012.


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