Muscle dysmorphia, sometimes called “bigorexia“, “megarexia”, or “reverse anorexia”, is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, but is often also grouped with eating disorders. Affecting mostly males, and many athletes, muscle dysmorphia is obsessive preoccupation via delusional or exaggerated belief that one’s own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual’s build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. Disordered fixation on gaining body mass, as by devoting inordinate time and attention on exercise routines, dietary regimens, and nutritional supplements, is typical, and use of anabolic steroids is common. Usually also present are other, body-dysmorphic preoccupations that are not muscle-dysmorphic.
Muscle dysmorphia has also been called the “Adonis Complex”, which, however, encompasses broader concerns of male body image. Yet likewise, muscle dysmorphia’s rising incidence is due in part to recent popularization of extreme cultural ideals of men’s bodies. Severely distressful and distracting, muscle dysmorphia’s bodily concerns provoke absences from school, work, and socializing. Perceiving one’s body as severely undesirable, one may avoid dating. Versus other body dysmorphic disorder, rates of suicide attempts may be especially high. Although likened to anorexia nervosa in females, muscle dysmorphia is mostly unknown and tough to recognize, especially since males experiencing it typically look healthy to others. By some estimates, 10% of gym-going men experience muscle dysmorphia.