The term vigorexia or muscular dysmorphia refers to a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, which in turn is within the types of obsessive-compulsive disorder and is closely related to other eating disorders.
What is vigorexia?
Vigorexia is a clinical condition characterized by an individual’s obsession with his body. This obsession arises because the subject believes that his body is too small or less developed than others, and he tends to take drastic measures to increase his muscle mass.
This is a psychopathology that can begin to be seen in adolescence or adulthood, and affects both men and women, although according to research it is more frequent to find it in men who suffer from problems of low self-esteem and low self-confidence , since these have been become increasingly dissatisfied with their body images.
Causes of vigorexia
The exact causes of muscle dysmorphia are not yet known, but it is estimated that an accumulation of bio-psycho-social factors is responsible for this disorder.
Biological factors that contribute to muscle dysmorphia are related to insufficient serotonin , a brain neurotransmitter that affects mood and well-being.
Among the psychosocial factors we can highlight that those who suffered physical or psychological abuse – such as bullying – during their school period or adolescence, are more likely to have low self-esteem and suffer from this disorder.
Genetic factors also play an important role when diagnosing muscle dysmorphia, because if we come from a family in which a close member has suffered from this psychopathology, we will be more predisposed to contracting it.
Symptoms of vigorexia
- Obsession with muscle size
- Excessive preoccupation with appearing physically weak
- Lack of appetite or excessive appetite
- Alteration of the menstrual cycle in women.
- Extreme dedication to physical exercises (mainly weights)
- Have mood swings and have panic attacks
- Heart problems
- Excessive concern for your image
- Chronic distress or episodes of depression
- muscle atrophy
- Reduced sperm volume
- Anabolic steroid abuse (used to enlarge muscles)
- Weigh yourself several times a day
- Wear loose clothing to prevent others from seeing your body
How can we treat vigorexia?
Vigorexia can have significant health consequences, as it can cause physical problems due to overtraining or a low-calorie diet. People with this disorder generally do not seek treatment, so one of the biggest obstacles is convincing the person to accept help.
In addition to going to a health specialist to assess the physical condition of the person and determine an essential diet for their condition, you should seek help from a mental health professional , who will help you find the focus of the disorder and lead carry out a treatment commensurate with the condition of your patient.
Treatment should focus on normalizing eating and exercise patterns , as well as addressing obsessive thoughts.
For these disorders, psychoanalysis or cognitive-behavioral therapy are usually used . These take a long procedure, so the earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the more effective the therapy will be.
Psychotherapy treatments will be complemented with a series of antidepressant drugs -selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors-, which may be prescribed by your psychotherapist or your family doctor to treat symptoms related to muscle dysmorphia.
The support of family, partner or friends who can contribute their bit for the speedy recovery of the patient is extremely necessary .