Bigorexia: 5 Signs You Need to Know!

muscle dysmorphia bigorexia

Do You Have Bigorexia? Know the Signs

By: John D. Moore, PhD

Do you obsessive over the size of your body? Are you consumed with thoughts that you are puny, lacking muscular size and strength? Do you constantly compare your build to others? If so, you may have something called bigorexia.

Bigorexia is an insidious disorder that goes by several names, including reverse anorexia and muscle dysphoria. Clinically speaking, muscle dysmorphia can be classified as a subtype of a larger problem called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. If you are a person in Chicago or elsewhere who suffers from this particular affliction, you likely think you are small when in fact, the opposite is true.

One of the common features of bigorexia is a feeling that you are puny or simply “not big enough”. As a result, you may try to compensate for some of these feelings by continually hitting the gym to workout. You may also take a myriad of supplements with the goal of increasing your muscle size. Some people with this disorder even reach for anabolic steroids.

Over the course of time, thoughts regarding your body size may become obsessive in nature, causing you to constantly look at yourself in the mirror. Some people with bigorexia become so disgusted with their appearance that they avoid mirrors entirely. These obsessions can cause a vicious cycle of pain, anxiety and depression.

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Bigorexia Causes

For a number of reasons, we seem to be having more cases of bigorexia than in the past. Part of this problem can be traced to images we see in the popular media. Other causes relate to self-concepts of what it means to be a man or a woman. And to be sure, there are cultural influences that are tied to various communities, including teenagers and men who identify as gay.  More and more, teenage boys seem particularly susceptible to bigorexia.

If have a history of feeling rejected or had a childhood where you were bullied, you may have a predisposition for developing bigorexia, which is not uncommon in people who have body dysmorphic disorder, according to the current research.

five signs of bigorexia


5 Signs of Bigorexia

So what are the specific signs you should be looking for if you suspect you have muscle dysmorphia? What follows are 10 questions you may want to ask yourself which may suggest a problem. All of these signs should be viewed in their totality before arriving at a conclusion.  

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

1. Do your thoughts become obsessive that your body is not muscular enough?

This means that on more days than not, you have intrusive thoughts that suggest you are small, puny or inadequately built. These thoughts preoccupy your time, causing damage to your self-esteem. If you are embarrassed to look at yourself in the mirror because you do not like what is staring back, this may suggest you have body image issues.

2. Do you avoid places or situations where your body is exposed?

Do you avoid going to places like the beach because you might have to take your shirt off? When you are sexually intimate with someone, do you generally remain clothed? Do you become anxious when you are around others who you think have better bodies? Do you constantly compare the size of your body to others? If you are nodding your head yes to any of these – something unhealthy may be going on with your self-concept.

3. Does time at the gym or related diet activities interfere with other areas of your life?

Essentially, this means that you are spending so much time at the gym that you are not able to attend to other important things in your life. The same holds true for blocks of time spent around dietary activities. If you can’t hang out with your friends, chill out with loved ones or do much of anything else because you are obsessed with getting bigger, this is a big sign you may have a problem.

4. Do you continue to hit the gym or use dietary aids, even though they are causing you harm?

Many people who have muscle dysmorphic disorder often struggle with over training syndrome. Others with this affliction continue to work out, even though they have experienced previous injuries at the gym. If you have been told you are over-training or that your weightlifting activities are harming your body, you need to pay attention to this sign. The same holds true if you are taking supplements without a prescription that are interfering with your normal bodily functions (or harming you).

5. You use Anabolic Steroids or Human Growth Hormones

Steroids are serious business and should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor for medical purposes. Use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) without prescription should also raise a few red flags that you may be struggling with bigorexia.

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Final Thoughts

If you think you found yourself saying yes to one or more of these signs, it might be a good idea to educate yourself a bit more about muscle dysmorphia. One great resource to think about is the book authored by Katherine Phillips, MD entitled: The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Another resource to consider is the book, The Adonis Complex.  Both of these reads provide page after page of useful, insightful information for you to reflect upon.



In addition to the resources listed above, many people find working with a therapist who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy to be effective in helping to iron out irrational thoughts regarding body image. This type of therapy is particularly helpful if you struggle with other life challenges, such as social anxiety.  

If you would like to talk to one of our Chicago therapists about your body image issues, including concerns around bigorexia, please give us a call at 773-528-1777 or send us a confidential note through our online contact form.

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