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Signs and Symptoms of Bigorexia

Typical Features of Bigorexia


Updated May 21, 2014

Bigorexia and Mirror Checking.
Bigorexic men check themselves up to 12 times a day. This compares to roughly 3 times a day with other weight lifters. social & work events: important social events like birthdays, meeting friends, keeping appointments etc are overlooked because they interrupt the training schedule. Working hours may be seen as too long and some men have lost their jobs because they spend too long training during break periods.

Diet and Bigorexia
Very strict diets are important. Bigorexics will rarely eat at another person's house or at a restaurant because they are unable to control the dietary balance or know exactly what has gone into food preparation. It has been known for men to develop eating disorders such as bulimia.

Bigorexia and Measuring Up
Bigorexic men constantly compare their own physique with that of other men. Invariably their perceptions are incorrect. Even when observing men of equal physique they will judge themselves as smaller.

Bigorexia and Drugs
The use of anabolic steroids is common amongst bigorexics. Men continue using steroids despite experiencing side effects such as increased aggression, acne, breast enlargement, impotence, baldness, impotence and testicular shrinkage.

Bigorexia and Body Fat
Men with bigorexia typically worry about the percentage of body fat they carry rather than being overweight. 

Psychological Factors and Bigorexia
Unlike many body builders who enjoy the opportunity to show their physique in public bigorexics do not. Many will hide away for days at a time because of embarrassment about their body shape. Research undertaken by Pope and others in 2000 found that one man avoided sex with his wife in case it used up energy he could apply to body building.

Typically, men with bigorexia have a low self esteem. Many report having been teased at school about their physique leading to a focus on 'making good'. However, the attempt to catch up is never achieved and results in a poor sense of self and feelings of emptiness. Studies by Olivardia and others in 2000 also found that 29 per cent of men with bigorexia had a history of anxiety disorder and 59 per cent exhibited some other form of mood disorder.

Treatment Options for Bigorexia
At the time of writing no systematic studies have been produced to compare the effectiveness of one treatment over another, either individually or in combination. A particular problem with the condition is that, rather like anorexics, men rarely see themselves as having a problem and are unlikely to come forward for treatment. The condition itself occurs partly as a response to feelings of depression and lack of self-esteem so coming forward for treatment is admitting defeat.

Where men have come forward a combination of educational and psychotherapeutic techniques have begun to show promising results. Cognitive-behavioral techniques place an emphasis on identifying and changing patterns of thinking towards more realistic and achievable goals. Future treatment packages may well be informed by such approaches but more systematic studies are now required.


Olivardia R, Pope HG Jr, Hudson JI. Muscle dysmorphia in male weightlifters: a case-control study. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;157(8):1291-6. Accessed online March 22, 2010.

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