Bigorexia Nervosa

It's more common than you think

What is it?

Bigorexia Nervosa, or Muscle Dysmorphia, is a disorder that is characterized by a fear of being too small, and perceiving oneself as small and weak even when one is actually large and muscular.


Many factors are thought to influence and cause a person to have muscle dysmorphia. These factors include family disharmony, perfectionism, severe stress, aesthetic focus and negative influence of mass culture that promotes an idealized body. This relates to the sociocultural level of analysis which states that culture influences behavior. This is because cultural standards set for mass as a measure of masculinity influences self esteem and can lead to abnormal behavior and muscle dysmorphia.


  • Excessive exercising

  • Extreme Dieting

    • Selective Eating in order to gain muscle

  • Use of steroids or fat burning pills

  • Relationships are affected(missing important events to work out)

  • Frequently looking in the mirror

  • Avoiding situations in which they may be exposed


  • More males than females are affected by this disorder, due to the sociocultural level of analysis that states culture influences behavior. Typically, in most societies, men are considered to be more masculine if they are bigger and more defined muscles. This influences some men to begin to exercise and diet to the point where they gain distorted views of themselves and obsess over the “ideal male body”.
  • The biggest group of people affected are gym-going men, which goes hand in hand with the sociocultural level of analysis that states human beings are social creatures and thus have a need to belong, because they compare themselves to other gym-going men and seek to change their bodies to be more like them.
  • According to Healthy Place, 10% of men who regularly attend the gym, lifting weights or exercising in ways other than just cardio, have Muscular dysmorphia.


Most people resist getting help or admitting that they have a mental disorder so they don’t seek help. If they are aware of an issue they may be too afraid to change their ways because they feel that they will “wither away” (ANRED). Usually family or friends may be able to persuade the person with the disorder to seek help. In which they would have to go through cognitive-behavioral therapy and most likely be medicated at the same time (ANRED). Medications include antidepressants like fluoxetine that controls the levels of the serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain (Leone, J). This represents the first level of biological analysis because one can see how the low levels of serotonin in the brain affect one’s behavior to feel depressed which can cause mental disorders.

Psycholgical Studies

A study conducted by Courtney Pope, Harrison Pope, William Menrad, Christina Fav, Roberto Olivardia, and Katharine Phillips shows clinical features of males with Dysmorphic disorder. In the study they conducted a blinded (not knowing the topic/why they were being surveyed) survey of 63 men to see if they had similar symptoms to the disease by asking about characteristics, demography, family history, etc (Pope, C). With this information the investigators were able to conclude that 22.2% (14) of the men were rated as having the Dysmorphic disorder. This shows us the prevalence of the disorder (Pope, C).


ANRED: Muscle Dysmorphia. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from

Leone, J. E., Sedory, E. J., & Gray, K. A. Recognition and Treatment of Muscle Dysmorphia and Related Body Image Disorders. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from

STUDY: Pope, C. G., Pope, H. G., Menard, W., Fay, C., Olivardia, R., & Phillips, K. A. Clinical features of muscle dysmorphia among males with body dysmorphic disorder. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from