It’s feared one in 10 men training in UK gyms could have a condition which can lead to depression, steroid abuse and even suicide.
Muscle dysmorphia, which is also known as ‘bigorexia’, is an anxiety disorder which causes someone to see themselves as small, despite being big and muscular.
The condition can affect men and women, but one expert suggested many cases go unreported. It is sometimes described as a kind of “reverse anorexia”.
Rob Willson, chair of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, said: “We know about 10% of men in the gym may have muscle dysmorphia.”
He believes the condition is a growing problem, but that many cases may be going undiagnosed because there is little awareness of the disorder.
“Muscle dysmorphia is a preoccupation with the idea that one isn’t big enough, isn’t muscular enough,” he explains.
“There are thousands upon thousands with it, who are going to be excessively concerned about their appearance, having very poor self-esteem, and also feeling very anxious and very worried.
“Sometimes individuals can become very depressed and hopeless and that can even lead to suicide,” he said.
Signs of bigorexia may include
- Overexertion at the gym
- Working out compulsively
- Use of anabolic steroids
- Excessively looking at your body in the mirror
- Abuse of supplements and constant drinking of protein shakes
- Irritability and angry outbursts
- Depression and mania
Mr Willson said men are increasingly conditioned to think that they need to look a certain way if they want to feel successful, powerful and attractive.
“We’re seeing an increased pressure on men to look muscular, create a ‘V’ shape and have a six pack,” he added.
The cause of bigorexia is not clear. The NHS states it may be genetic or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Life experiences may also be a factor, with ‘bigorexia’ possibly more common in people who were bullied or abused as a child.
Source: BBC Newsbeat