Anorexia vs. Bigorexia
Bigorexia is the opposite of the more talked about disorder called anorexia. They are both a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder where the person is unhappy with their body image.
Anorexia is where the person thinks they are too fat and will do things like throw up after eating food. This is something found in mostly females by a 3 to 1 margin; however, I’ve seen statistics showing that the female:male ratio is actually more like 6 to 1. Actually, I knew a very beautiful girl when I was in high school who would eat a meal and then would throw it back up, she thought she was fat and in reality, she only weighed 95 pounds. It is a very sad condition.
Bigorexia, also called muscle dysmorphia, affects men at a much more higher rate than females. It is estimated that 10% of men who attend gyms have bigorexia, yet if you go to a more meathead type gym the percentage surely will be much higher. The most common age that this condition starts is at 19 years old. With bigorexia, men become obsessed with the size of their muscles and are frightened with being weak.
Do I or a loved one have bigorexia?
If you ever go to any gym, you will run into someone with bigorexia - they are not difficult to spot. Although there is a difference between being a narcissistic person and being someone who has actual bigorexia, these are some of the glaring things to look for:
Excess time in the gym
Obsession with eating high protein, and especially drinking protein shakes and eating meat right away after a workout
Checking themselves out in the mirror, or working out in front of the mirror too often
Comparing their bodies to others
Abusing supplements and anabolic steroids
Worrying about what others think about how they look, and thinking people are always looking at their body
Weighing themselves several times a day
A constant worry about muscle size, and a fear of losing muscle
Keep in mind there is also a difference between someone who exhibits obsessive-compulsive behaviors and those who simply like working out and staying healthy. If someone is so obsessed with working out and dieting that it is ruining their relationships, work, or school this is a red flag that they have a problem.
What causes bigorexia in the first place?
Doctors think that genetics can play a role in bigorexia and those who have a relative with the condition are more likely to have it. Another issue may be related to neurotransmitters in the brain which affects mood.
However, the most logical and main reason for bigorexia is the environment the person grew up in. Bullying, trauma, family issues, being skinny (or fat) as a child all are contributing factors to why a person develops bigorexia as a teenager into their 20’s.
Bigorexia in social media and comedy
Although it’s not a laughing matter due to the strains this condition can put on a person’s finances and family life, we have seen this condition mocked over the years. Movies and shows during the 70’s and 80’s routinely mocked bodybuilders using ‘Arnold accents’ to show them as being self-absorbed, naive, and stupid.
In recent years with the growth of prank channels on youtube, we have seen comedy based on ‘gym douche’ characters. One of my favorite characters is played by YouTuber Cassady Campbell.
In his videos, the character wears a muscle suit in public and approaches people using phrases such as:
“You mad bro? because I am juicier than you”
“Can we meet up for dinner in 45 minutes, I have to wait for my anabolic window”
“You looking a little small there, let’s go to the protein section man”
“I only workout my chest and arms, that’s all you need to get pussy”
“They used to call me juicebox in elementary school because I’m juicy as fuck” while kissing his biceps.
“Can you weigh out this food? You have a food scale here, how much protein is in this meat?”
Rich Piana and bigorexia
Rich Piana is a deceased mega social media fitness celebrity and bodybuilder, who admitted he suffered from bigorexia since he was 6 years old, when he played with He-man dolls and noticed how muscular they were. He also would go with his mother to Golds Gym and would see all the muscular guys there picking up tons of women in their flashy cars, so that was put in his head that looks do matter, and he was “fucked”. Piana said that he has an addiction, and he looks in the mirror and is never satisfied with how big he is.
Jerry Ward also admitted in a video that he had the same problem and said many of his viewers have the issue too.
The video was shot 2 years before Piana would have a stroke and fall and hit his head, with the autopsy showing his organs were twice normal size and he had major heart problems with his sheer size likely contributing to his early death.
Treatment options for bigorexia involve therapy and behavioral/antidepressant medications. These drugs work together to reduce obsessive thoughts about how a person looks and gain more control over their tendencies to want to excessively workout or check the mirror.
If this condition is not treated a person can run into major heart problems due to excessive size and ruin their marriages and finances.