Muscle dysmorphia, also known as Bigorexia or Megarexia, is a disorder that takes center stage in the world of body image concerns. This article delves into the intricacies of this condition, exploring its origins, symptoms, and the psychological aspects that drive individuals into its grasp.

The following Video was aired on June 25, 2005 ABS-CBN. It is a feature in the Magandang Gabi Bayan – MGB special interest show entitled bigorexia.

What is Muscle Dysmorphia?

Muscle dysmorphia, often referred to as “Bigorexia” or “Megarexia,” is a distinct form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) that centers around an obsessive preoccupation with muscularity and body size. Individuals grappling with muscle dysmorphia experience a distorted self-perception, believing that they are not muscular enough, even when possessing above-average muscle mass. Unlike anorexia nervosa, where individuals perceive themselves as overweight, those with muscle dysmorphia view themselves as too skinny or inadequately muscular.

Characterized by a relentless pursuit of an idealized physique, muscle dysmorphia can lead to severe psychological distress and negatively impact overall well-being. The disorder often manifests in behaviors such as excessive exercise, strict dietary regimens, and the misuse of supplements or anabolic steroids in an attempt to attain the perceived perfect body.

The Adonis Complex

The Adonis Complex serves as a conceptual framework deeply intertwined with muscle dysmorphia, shedding light on the psychological intricacies of this disorder. Coined by Pope, Phillips, and Olivardia, the Adonis Complex represents a pathological preoccupation with achieving an idealized muscular physique, often associated with societal standards of attractiveness.

Muscle dysmorphia, encapsulated within the Adonis Complex, reveals a fixation on physical appearance, specifically the relentless pursuit of a muscular body. Individuals affected by muscle dysmorphia often engage in compulsive behaviors, such as excessive exercise and the misuse of substances like anabolic steroids, to attain their perceived ideal physique.

The connection between muscle dysmorphia aka bigorexia and the Adonis Complex emphasizes the emotional distress and impaired social functioning experienced by individuals grappling with this disorder. Dissatisfaction with one’s muscularity takes center stage, surpassing concerns about body fat, height, and other physical attributes.

Understanding this psychological interplay is vital in developing effective interventions and support mechanisms for individuals dealing with muscle dysmorphia. By addressing the root of the Adonis Complex, therapeutic approaches can target distorted body image perceptions and contribute to a more holistic treatment paradigm.

Symptoms and Delusions

Bigorexia manifests through a spectrum of symptoms that collectively contribute to a challenging mental landscape for those affected. Key symptoms include an obsessive preoccupation with body image, a distorted perception of one’s own muscularity, and a relentless pursuit of an idealized physique. Individuals with muscle dysmorphia often engage in compulsive behaviors such as excessive exercise, rigid dietary regimens, and the misuse of substances like anabolic steroids.

One notable aspect of muscle dysmorphia is the presence of delusions. Those grappling with this disorder often hold false beliefs about their own body size and muscularity. Despite possessing above-average muscle mass, individuals with muscle dysmorphia perceive themselves as inadequately muscular or even skinny. This delusional thinking contributes to a persistent dissatisfaction with their physical appearance, fueling the cycle of obsessive behaviors.

Selective attention plays a crucial role in muscle dysmorphia, where individuals focus intensely on perceived flaws in their physique, disregarding objective evidence to the contrary. This tunnel vision reinforces the distorted self-image characteristic of the disorder. Navigating the complex mental landscape of muscle dysmorphia requires a comprehensive understanding of these symptoms and delusions, forming the basis for effective therapeutic interventions and support mechanisms.

Perceived Defects

Muscle dysmorphia aka Bigorexia involves a distinctive preoccupation with perceived defects, leading individuals to focus intensely on aspects like having a too-skinny body or feeling underweight. This heightened attention to specific flaws contributes to the distorted self-perception characteristic of the disorder.

In the context of muscle dysmorphia, individuals exhibit a unique form of body dysmorphic disorder where their fixation revolves around the belief that they lack muscularity despite often possessing above-average muscle mass. This creates a paradoxical situation where individuals, in reality, may be well-built, yet their distorted self-perception drives an obsession with achieving an idealized physique.

The selective attention directed towards perceived defects in muscle dysmorphia aligns with the broader concept of body dysmorphic disorder, emphasizing the subjective nature of appearance-related concerns. Understanding how individuals hone in on these perceived defects provides crucial insights into the complex interplay between distorted self-perception and the relentless pursuit of an idealized body image.


Muscle dysmorphia is characterized by a state of hypervigilance, where individuals display heightened sensitivity to even minor deviations from their perceived ideal physique. This heightened alertness contributes significantly to the intricate web of this disorder.

Individuals with muscle dysmorphia exhibit an obsessive preoccupation with their body image, specifically focusing on muscularity. Their hypervigilance manifests as an intense scrutiny of their own physical appearance, accompanied by a relentless pursuit of an idealized body shape. This preoccupation often leads to compulsive behaviors such as excessive exercise, strict dietary regimens, and the use of body-enhancing substances.

The hypervigilance in muscle dysmorphia is akin to a constant state of monitoring for any perceived flaws or inadequacies in muscular development. Even minor variations from the idealized physique can trigger distress and anxiety in individuals with this disorder, further fueling their compulsive behaviors.

Understanding the hypervigilance displayed by individuals with muscle dysmorphia aka bigorexia is crucial in developing effective interventions and support strategies. It highlights the need for comprehensive approaches that address both the distorted self-perception and the obsessive behaviors associated with this complex disorder.

Ignoring Reality

Individuals with bigorexia often exhibit a cognitive phenomenon where they actively ignore information that contradicts their distorted body image. This behavior reflects a form of denial sustained by intricate cognitive mechanisms.

The cognitive mechanisms contributing to this denial involve selective attention and information-processing biases. Those with muscle dysmorphia tend to focus disproportionately on perceived flaws or inadequacies in their muscularity while dismissing or downplaying information that challenges this distorted self-perception.

Selective attention plays a pivotal role, as individuals with muscle dysmorphia may concentrate intensely on specific body parts, emphasizing perceived deficiencies. This selective focus reinforces their distorted beliefs while minimizing the significance of contrary evidence.

Additionally, information-processing biases contribute to the maintenance of denial in muscle dysmorphia. Cognitive processes such as filtering, where only information confirming existing beliefs is attended to, further solidify the distorted body image.

Understanding these cognitive mechanisms is crucial for developing effective interventions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one approach that aims to address and modify these maladaptive thought patterns, offering individuals with muscle dysmorphia tools to challenge and reframe their distorted self-perception.

The Impact on Mental Health

Bigorexia goes beyond its impact on physical appearance, significantly affecting mental health. Individuals grappling with this condition often experience profound psychological ramifications, with anxiety and depression being prevalent aspects.

  1. Anxiety: Muscle dysmorphia induces heightened levels of anxiety. The relentless pursuit of an idealized muscular physique creates a constant state of worry and apprehension. Individuals may be consumed by fears of not meeting perceived standards, leading to persistent feelings of unease.
  2. Depression: The unattainable quest for the “perfect” body in muscle dysmorphia frequently contributes to depressive symptoms. The discrepancy between one’s actual appearance and the distorted self-image can lead to a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and sadness, impacting overall mood and well-being.
  3. Quest for Unattainable Perfection: Muscle dysmorphia is characterized by a relentless pursuit of an idealized body shape that may never be achievable. This perpetual pursuit of perfection can lead to frustration, disappointment, and a negative cycle of self-criticism, further exacerbating mental health challenges.

Understanding the mental health impact of muscle dysmorphia is crucial for developing holistic interventions. Approaches that address both the physical and psychological aspects, including therapy and support, play a vital role in promoting mental well-being for individuals grappling with this condition.

Overcoming Bigorexia

Navigating a path to recovery from muscle dysmorphia, commonly known as Bigorexia, involves a multifaceted approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition. Here are key strategies for individuals seeking to overcome Bigorexia:

  1. Professional Therapy:
    • Engage in psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which has proven effective in treating body dysmorphic disorders.
  2. Support Networks:
    • Build a strong support system with friends, family, and peers who understand the challenges of muscle dysmorphia. Sharing experiences can provide emotional relief and encouragement.
  3. Self-Care Practices:
    • Embrace self-care practices that prioritize mental and physical well-being. Balancing fitness activities with other hobbies and relaxation techniques can help shift focus away from body image fixation.
  4. Educational Resources:
    • Utilize educational resources to gain a deeper understanding of Bigorexia. Awareness about the disorder and its psychological underpinnings can empower individuals in their recovery journey.
  5. Set Realistic Goals:
    • Work with mental health professionals to set realistic and achievable fitness goals. Shifting the focus from an unattainable ideal to healthy and sustainable objectives is crucial.
  6. Monitor Social Media Use:
    • Be mindful of social media influences. Limit exposure to content that may trigger negative thoughts about body image and consider following accounts that promote body positivity.
  7. Medication, if Appropriate:

Remember, overcoming Bigorexia is a gradual process that requires patience and commitment. Seeking professional help and building a robust support network are pivotal steps toward reclaiming a healthy relationship with one’s body.

FAQs About Muscle Dysmorphia

  1. Is bigorexia exclusively a male disorder?
    • No, while it predominantly affects men, women can also experience bigorexia.
  2. Can bigorexia coexist with other mental health disorders?
    • Yes, it often coexists with conditions like anxiety and depression.
  3. What role does societal pressure play in the development of muscle dysmorphia?
    • Societal pressure can contribute, but genetic and psychological factors also play significant roles.
  4. Is muscle dysmorphia treatable?
    • Yes, with appropriate therapy and support, individuals can overcome muscle dysmorphia.
  5. Are there any support groups for individuals with muscle dysmorphia?
    • Yes, various support groups and online communities provide a platform for sharing experiences and seeking guidance.