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Bigorexia | What Is Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There are a number of conditions regarding body type and an individual’s perception on their own body composition.

One of the most well known disorders related to body image is anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder caused by the desire to either to be thinner/lighter, or a fear of being fat/overweight.

Conversely to this, is the condition of muscle dysmorphic disorder (MDD), which is otherwise known as bigorexia.

What Is Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder?

Developing bigorexia stems from an individual becoming obsessed with their body composition and feeling like they’re either too small, not muscular enough or not lean enough. It’s very common for those with muscle dysmorphia to have higher than average muscle mass, however someone with MDD will believe they have an inadequate amount of muscle mass. bodytypes

Bigorexia is a disorder which is more common is males than females, although it does effect both genders. Those who have muscle dysmorphia are likely to participate in resistance training exercise very consistently; they also have a tendency to take steroids and similar muscle building drugs.

One of the most popular arguments in understanding why MDD effects more males than females is that the cultural ideal for a female is to be thin and small, while the ideal for a male is to be strong and big.

Males who feel small and muscularly inadequate may associate their physique with femininity. 

The Effects of MDD


Due to an individual’s perception of themselves with MDD, they may find that they are constantly concerned with other people’s opinions regarding whether they carry a large amount of muscle on their frame or not.

Someone with MDD may be self conscious to the point where they feel like strangers are judging their body composition due to “how small they are” when actually they they have a large amount of muscle on their frame. As a result of simply feeling self conscious, MDD causes the person to find less enjoyment in everyday things such as simply socialising and relaxing due to their mind being constantly aware of the fact that somebody could be thinking they are small.


In terms of physical health, in extreme cases people with MDD may resort to a number of muscle enhancing drugs and become addicted to them, ranging from a number of forms at one time, from tablets to injections. By placing excess amounts of steroid based substances and testosterone into the body, hormone levels are likely to alter and moods may become more negative.

It’s likely that someone taking an abundance of performance enhancing drugs can reach anger and lose their temper more quickly than they would without any performance related drugs. 

What To Do About Bigorexia?

MDD is no joke, 10% of males who attend the gym are estimated to experience bigorexia; for someone who’s seriously being affected by it, friends and family may be best to step in and offer support.


In most cases, someone living with bigorexia will be hesitant to accept any form of help, as their understanding is that if they are being told to stop doing something, IE: taking a muscle enhancing drug for example, this would likely result in them becoming smaller which is exactly what they do not want.

This means that constant reassurance and compliments are a very important part of helping someone who may be self conscious.

✓ Using a fat-free mass index (FFMI) calculator could help in stopping people use steroids. There’s a certain amount of muscle your body can hold on its frame depending on your personal body stats; not all people who take steroids necessarily need to in order to achieve their size.

FFMI has a natural upper limit of around 25. This is actually quite a substantial amount of muscle on a human frame and by just looking at anyone with a FFMI over 20 you’ll be able to instantly tell they’ve worked hard to achieve their physique. Meaning that, if someone is living with MDD and taking steroids with a FFMI below 25, they shouldn’t feel so dependent on taking performance enhancing drugs because they could actually achieve what they’re chasing naturally with less health risks.

Severe Cases

In severe cases where individuals simply do not want support, it’s probable that a referral would have to be made to a mental health counsellor if a change is going to be made to the individuals lifestyle through altering their perspective.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy can help the individual understand their negative psychological patterns regarding their self-perception. There are also certain medications which can be prescribed for MDD. It’s important to understand that these things should not be pressured onto people though.

Take Home Message

Bigorexia is a real issue and if you know somebody who may be effected by it you should offer your support and reassurance (and in possible severe cases, refer to a mental health counsellor). Sometimes all it takes to feel more self confident is receiving compliments from people.

Approval from others is very rewarding, especially when you’ve been working hard to achieve something and you’re struggling to see all of your progress.

Most of the time, it’s friends and family who notice our improvements first, as we see ourselves and live in our own skin every day so we see changes on a smaller scale as opposed to mass transformations; whereas people who see us less regularly can notice changes to our physiques much more easily.

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