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Adonis complex: causes, symptoms and treatment

Adonis complex: causes, symptoms and treatment

July 18, 2024

The concern for physical appearance, to a greater or lesser extent, is common in our days, because we live immersed in the culture of the image. Now, when this worry becomes too important a part of our life and leads us to perform self-destructive behaviors, so we are talking about the Adonis complex , a serious problem that must be addressed.

In this article we will talk about the Adonis complex and will delve into its causes, symptoms and treatment.

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What is the Adonis complex?

The Adonis complex is what is popularly known as vigorexia , muscle dysmorphia or inverted anorexia. People with this disorder suffer continuously for their physical appearance and especially for their obsession and fixation to acquire a muscular body, which would represent the maximum expression of male body image. This obsession and concern leads the individual to pathological extremes.

The term "Adonis complex" is not usually used in the medical setting, but is rather the name that vigorexia receives popularly. This curious name is drawn from Greek mythology, that represented Adonis as half a man and half a god. Adonis was considered the supreme being of male beauty and, according to mythology, so beautiful was his body that he won the love of Aphrodite, queen of all gods.

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As some researches claim, in Spain there are approximately 700,000 cases of the Adonis complex or vigorexia. Mostly it is men in the age range of 15 to 35 who usually suffer from this disorder; however, cases of women with this condition have also been reported.

Although the exact cause of this disorder is difficult to determine, scientific studies conclude that a series of factors can cause the appearance of the Adonis complex. They are the following:

1. Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem it is both a cause and a consequence of this disorder, and is that individuals with Adonis complex are often assessed negatively and have a lack of self-confidence. They become obsessed with physical appearance thinking that in this way they will feel better. They are not good with themselves and seek external approval that does not favor their mental well-being at all.

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2. Culture of the image

The culture of the image and the values ​​and beliefs that this society promotes have an effect on how people interpret the environment and value ourselves. We are continually surrounded by media that make us feel bad if we do not fulfill the unreal expectations that we can get to have fruit of the canon of beauty of the West. Education is the best way to counteract these toxic values ​​or beliefs.

3. Bullying

Some individuals can develop this condition after having a negative image of themselves that is a consequence of how they have been harassed in the early stages of their lives . For example, because of the teasing of classmates at school.

4. Perfectionism

The perfectionist personality is closely linked to the desire to have a perfect body. This type of behavior leads to obsession , because perfectionists are very hard on themselves and do not accept themselves as they are.

  • Related article: "Perfectionist personality: the disadvantages of perfectionism"

Symptoms and signs

Individuals who suffer from the Adonis complex are obsessed with their physical appearance and can spend several hours a day thinking about their body in a negative way and looking at themselves in the mirror again and again. The vigoréxicos are people who take care of their diet to the extreme, because they want to have a body without fat but at the same time bulky and muscular . They are never happy with the way they look because they never look good.

Not looking good causes them discomfort and they try to counteract the anxiety and low self-esteem they feel with some harmful behaviors. For example, they consume anabolics, eat unhealthy and they practice sport obsessively , leaving aside the benefits for health and focusing purely and exclusively on the body image, even sacrificing their well-being.


Psychological therapy can be really effective for the treatment of this disorder, but the first step in overcoming the Adonis complex is for the patient to accept that he has a problem and is willing to seek help. If you are aware that you are suffering from vigorexia, you may first go to the family doctor to explain the problem.Although this professional can make a first diagnosis, it is necessary to contact a psychologist specialized in this type of disorders.

Psychological therapy is useful because it re-educates the patient to learn positive and realistic patterns of thought and behavior. Although there are other treatments such as Cognitive Therapy Based on Mindfulness (TCBM) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which belong to third-generation therapies and help the patient to accept himself and adopt an attitude not judgmental about his body, Classical Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is usually the treatment par excellence . It has enough scientific evidence to affirm that it is an effective treatment.

CBT can be group or individual, and has the purpose of recognizing and establishing connections between the thoughts, feelings and behavior of the patient, so that he can acquire practical skills to overcome their problems. In this case, the objective will be to focus on the beliefs that the patient has regarding his own body and his physical appearance, which will allow him to modify the harmful behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses different techniques: cognitive restructuring, exposure techniques, social skills training, among others.

  • You can learn more about these techniques in this article: "The 10 most used cognitive-behavioral techniques"
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