Vigorexia: What it is, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vigorexia: What it is, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment / Exercises

Vigorexia is an anxiety disorder that causes the person to see his or her body much smaller than it actually is or is. It is also known as Adonis complex, or by the scientific term Muscular Dysmorphic Disorder (TDM).

Among the signs that characterize this disorder are the compulsive and exaggerated practice of physical exercises, excessive body worship and the abuse of anabolic steroids and supplements to gain muscle mass.

Why use the term TDM?

Muscular Dysmorphic Disorder is the scientific term for vigorexia. He describes a condition of uncontrol in relation to the perception of self-image. The term dysmorphism is used to denote the difference between what the person believes and sees about his or her physical image, and what it really is.

According to Rob Wilson, the president of the BDD Foundation, in an interview with the BBC television network, "Muscle dysmorphism is a concern that one is not big enough, not muscular enough ".

What is vigorexia?

Vigorexia is commonly described as the opposite of anorexia. While in anorexia you find yourself a lot fatter than you really are, you tend to look for ways to lose weight more and more. In vigorexia, the subject feels much weaker than it really is and tends to seek food, exercise and supplements to increase his muscle mass.

Both disorders are characterized by exaggerations and dissatisfaction with the physical self.

Vigorexia is a disorder of modernity

Scientists believe that vigorexia is one of the newest emotional pathologies stimulated by culture. It has emerged from an increasingly competitive society where image worship is increasingly stimulated.

This is a disorder usually generated from sociocultural and media influences. It begins as a simple vanity, but in the long run - and depending on the influences - it may end up linked to more serious mental disorders and with high risks to health.

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Characteristics of vigorexia

Although vigorexia has not yet been listed as a disease by the DSM (Statistical Manual and Diagnostic of Mental Disorders), some specific characteristics of the disorder have already been listed. It is known to be more common among men, and is characterized by a continuous and excessive concern in obtaining muscle mass.

One of the psychological characteristics of the vigorous ones is that they are ashamed of their bodies. For this reason they resort to excessive exercise and excessive intake of proteins and anabolic steroids, to accelerate hypertrophy, ie, increase muscle mass.

In most cases individuals are aware of the risks and the harm they are causing to their health and are aware that they are dealing with illegal substances, but this is not enough to stop them in the urge to "improve" their appearance.

According to Harrison G. Pope of the Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts,Medicine Magazine, "About one million Americans among the nine million bodybuilding fans may suffer from such a disorder."

Why do people develop vigorexia?

Although a large number of people are very concerned about their appearance, in order to be diagnosed with a Body Dysmorphic Disorder such as vigorexia, it is necessary to present specific symptoms such as suffering and obsession for part or all of the body, normal life.

In the case of vigorexia, suffering and obsession are linked to the issue of muscular development, such as an excessive search for a silhouette considered perfect and never achieved by the individual.

Anorexia is also a Body Dysmorphic Disorder and both diseases distort patients' self-image: anorexics never think they are thin enough, and the vigorous never think they are muscular enough.

The vigoréxicos are far from the standard idealized by them of muscular perfection. So they are able to exercise for hours on end to increase muscle size, ingest calories exaggeratedly, in addition to numerous hormones, proteins and vitamin supplements. All with the aim of increasing your muscle mass to an idealized level, but that has often been exceeded.

Possible Causes of Vigorexia

There may be several reasons why an individual develops vigorexia, however, it is known that its causes are closely related to the person's own view of himself. There is a line of researchers who believes that vigorexia could be a genetic disorder, or even be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Other studies show that life experiences can also be a factor in triggering vigorexia. These studies have shown that the disorder may be more common in people who were persecuted, abused or abused when they were young.

Among the carriers of vigorexia, however, there are people who seek only the perfect silhouette by the influence of the media and by pressure from the cultural standards of their environment and ends up going too far. There are also sportsmen and competitors who want to be the best, obsessively demanding of their bodies.

Research shows that the vigoréxicos are usually people of more introverted personality, whose quest for the perfect body is a compensation for shyness and, often, the feeling of social inferiority. These people tend to have low self-esteem, great difficulty to integrate socially and present rejection to the body image.

Symptoms of vigorexia

The main symptom that characterizes the vigorexia is the distortion in the perception of the body. The other symptoms of the pathology turn out to be due to this, for example, the obsession with exercise, diets and the indiscriminate intake of medicines.

This distortion is also the main symptom of other destructive behaviors that characterize a disorder as:

  • Exaggerated preoccupation with one's own body
  • Distorted autoimaging
  • Introverted Personality
  • Dissatisfaction with your muscle structure
  • Tendency to self-medication
  • Use of excessive amounts of dietary supplements
  • Extreme methods of training
  • Exercise while injured
  • Too strict diets
  • Let personal life aside for exercising
  • Abuse of steroids, unnecessary plastic surgeries, and even suicide attempts.

Vigorexia is a pathology derived from a society where the image is highly valued and tends to begin as a teenager, a period in which dissatisfaction with the body already occurs.

It is important to identify the disorder early on to prevent its consequences from escalating and your health to be impaired.

The consequences of vigorexia

The obsession with the perfect body produces important changes in eating habits, attitudes, self-esteem, health, and social relations of those who suffer from vigorexia. All the actions of the vigoréxicos are directed towards the care with the body. They tend to restrict their diet to nutrients intended solely for the constitution of muscles, causing imbalance of nutrients and damaging the general health of the body, such as liver overload.

Habits arising from vigorexia can cause cosmetic problems such as disproportionality between body, head and limbs. They can also cause physical problems due to overweight and excessive diet. The situation worsens when there is the use of anabolic steroids. The consumption of these substances increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, liver damage, sexual dysfunction, decreased size of the testicles and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Emotionally, studies show that a possible consequence of vigorexia may be OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), a mental pathology characterized by the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. Other possible risks of vigorexia are insomnia, irritability, sexual disinterest, weakness, lack of appetite, constant tiredness, difficulty concentrating, infertility in women, depression and suicidal thoughts - for always being uncomfortable and dissatisfied with your own body.

Treatment for vigorexia

Victims of vigorexia require special therapeutic treatments that involve family, friends and society in general to support them and help them overcome the disease.

People who are victims of vigorexia generally believe they are healthy and in excellent condition, while relatives, relatives and friends see that little by little they are being consumed by their dissatisfaction with their body.

The treatments used to control or remove this constant need to take care of the body are multidisciplinary, which means that they must involve different elements at the same time. We can cite four actions that must be taken simultaneously:

  • Balanced diet of nutrients and vitamins needed for the body
  • Suppression of anabolic steroids
  • Psychotherapy, to understand the behavioral aspect of the individual and their distorted perception of reality
  • The use of medications to control anxiety, compulsive behavior and to reduce stress and the obsession in exercising.

The acceptance of the pathology is fundamental for the

Victims of vigorexia rarely accept their disease because, similar to what occurs with anorexics, they rarely see themselves as having a problem and are not likely to initiate treatment.

The condition itself may occur as a response to feelings of depression and lack of self-esteem, which prevents one from assuming that one has the disorder. In this case the disorder was for them the cure of these feelings.

Affection and Medications May Be Key to Treating Vigorousness

Due to the difficulty of recognition of vigorexia by its carriers, the solidarity of family and friends is fundamental. During the treatment process, the victim must be approached to help her change the perspective by which she sees her own body.

Treatment for vigorexia also involves long-term psychological counseling and sometimes psychiatric medications can be used to manage depression, especially in the early stages of treatment.

All these aspects should be supervised by different professionals with the unconditional support of the family at each stage to ensure the main objective is to change the subject's self about himself to maintain his health and rebuild his self-esteem.

Additional references:

  1. CAMARGO, Tatiana Pimentel Pires de; COSTA, Sarah Passos Vieira da; UZUNIAN, Laura Giron and VIEBIG, Renata Furlan. Vigorexia: review of current aspects of this body image disorder. Rev. bras. psicol. Sport. 2008, vol.2, n.1, pp. 01-15. Available in: . ISSN 1981-9145.
  2. ASSUMPTION, Sheila Seleri Marques. Muscle dysmorphism. Rev. Bras. Psychiatry. [online]. 2002, vol.24, pp. 80-84. Available in: . ISSN 1516-4446.

Do you know anyone who has already passed or currently suffers from vigorexia? What is it like to witness this disorder? Comment below!