Dysmorphia is a condition in which someone really believes that there is something seriously wrong with their physical appearance when this is not the case.
Muscular dysmorphia or bigorexia is a condition where individuals, usually bodybuilders or athletes involved in sports where body size, weight and strength play a big role, think that they are too thin and scrawny or are not muscular enough even though they may be very big and muscular. They may, on the other hand think that they are terribly obese even though they are ripped and shredded to the bone without an ounce of fat to be noticed.
So you may have a bodybuilder who makes people turn their heads and stare when out and about, because of his huge muscles and ripped fatless body, believing that he is too thin and weak or are too fat or obese.
This is like a reverse form of anorexia, the condition where individuals may think they are too obese even though they are very thin and boney. Anorexia may be so extreme that the individuals suffering from it may literally starve themselves to death. Anorexia mainly affects young women, usually teenagers.
Muscular dysmorphia on the other hand mainly affects young men, usually bodybuilders. Female bodybuilders have also been reported to suffer from this condition as well. It is important to note that although most muscular dysmorphia victims are bodybuilders, most bodybuilders do not suffer from this condition.
They are actually a minority of the bodybuilding fraternity. Never the less, experts are worried that this trend may grow.
Muscular dysmorphia is a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour. The victims will spend a lot of time daily obsessively thinking about their imperfect body, and how to get the perfect muscular body that they imagine they don’t have.
They will spend excessive amounts of time training. They will usually over training and do much more than what is necessary to grow muscle, get lean and increase strength.
This will also have them spend a lot of time in front of the mirror looking at their bodies worrying and trying to figure out how to improve themselves.
They may also tend to suffer from bulimia. This is condition where the person tends to eat excessive amounts of food.
Patients may also adhere to very strict diets. And I’m not talking about the prep period. Prep is the period when bodybuilders go into very strict diet, sleep, training, and general daily routines as they prepare for a bodybuilding contest.
So the person may refuse to eat anything that he doesn’t know how it was prepared, the calories contained in the food, the ingredients, fat content and so on. So going out to dinner or eating at friends houses or family get togethers becomes a no no.
The victims also constantly compare their physiques with those of other bodybuilders or men of their own size and feel inadequate, smaller or fatter than them, even if this is not the case.
Despite the dangers of steroid use people with muscular dysmorphia are at a high risk of using steroids. Steroids, they imagine, will provide a quick fix to their “problem”. This is not usually the case, because the problem is a psychological one and not a problem of the physique. And since it is a psychological one, the victim will not notice any gains or improvements in size strength or ripped fat loss, and so will continue taking steroids, usually in larger and larger quantities, to their own detriment.
Most bodybuilders will walk around with confidence that their physique is good enough to be seen and admired in public. They even like it when haters hate on them and their bodies because this proves that their bodies are getting the results they’re looking for in the gym (otherwise they wouldn’t have haters).
Not so for muscular dysmorphia victims. These few bodybuilders are scared of being seen by other people because they think they are too skinny or have bad physiques. They may hide away from people because of embarrassment and this makes them develop antisocial behaviours.
In many cases, people suffering from muscular dysmorphia or bigorexia suffer from low self esteem and may also suffer from depression. Many of the victims also have a history of suffering from other various disorders for example mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
One problem with this condition is that, like anorexics, the victims don’t usually see themselves as having a psychological condition but see their perception of themselves as genuine, and thus are not likely to seek treatment.
Another problem in tackling muscle dysmorphia is that it is difficult to recognize, because awareness about it is low and also the victims are usually big strong and healthy looking.
CAUSES AND TREATMENT
Some of the causes of this disorder seem to be a history of the patient being bullied or ridiculed about their physique. The patients increased muscularity; size and strength seem to reduce this ridicule and bullying and so body size, strength and muscularity becomes an obsession.
Since many of the patients have a history of psychological disorders, this seems to be a contributing factor to this condition.
In today’s world, through the media, movies, celebrities sports and other sources, young men are bombarded with images of the perfect muscular body. The media portrays these muscular physics to be the standard that every man is supposed to achieve. Just look at all those advertising gimmicks using muscular models.
Young men therefore are under the impression that to fit in, one has to look a certain way. This pressurizes them into looking for the “perfect body” which in reality is just a dream.
Athletes in their quest to have the best physique for optimal performance are also at risk from muscular dysmorphia. The very high competitive nature of sport today and the high stakes that come with sports including financial gain, fame and glory may also push individuals to seek better and better results and thus become unrealistic with their physical expectations. So even when they are as close to perfection as possible they still want more and view themselves as inadequate.
Scientific research on muscle dysmorphia and its treatment is limited since this is a relatively new condition to be recognized. That being said there are a few forms of treatment that are showing promising results.
These methods are mainly through counseling to change ones thought patterns about the reality of the patient’s body condition and to have realistic expectations concerning their bodies.
More studies are being done on the condition and more is being understood about it. As time goes by and knowledge about muscular dysmorphia increases, methods of treatment will become better and there will be hope for the victims and their loved ones.