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Vigorexia: causes, symptoms and treatment

Vigorexia: causes, symptoms and treatment

June 20, 2024

The behavior of many individuals in Western societies has ignited the alarm signal of mental health experts, because the culture of the image increasingly influences our behavior.

Sports addiction or obsession with body image are phenomena that have arisen in recent times as a result of the values ​​promoted by capitalist society, fueled by consumerism and commodified media. However, this also has an effect on mental health, and the vigorexia is an example of it . Next we will see what this disorder consists of.

  • Related article: "The 10 most common eating disorders"

The modern obsession of men for their body

Our culture gives an excessive importance to the body image, and the media constantly bombards us with announcements about what our body should be like. Physical exercise is, without a doubt, one of the healthiest habits that human beings can practice; however, when we become obsessed with our appearance, these beneficial effects disappear.

The modern obsession with having a muscular body it is what is known as vigorexia, although it is also called muscular dysmorphia or adonis complex.

  • Related article: "The 10 psychological benefits of practicing physical exercise"

What is vigorexia?

In other articles we have talked about how physical exercise it can become almost a dangerous addiction , often as a result of low self-esteem or the wrong perception we have about our body. An example of this type of addiction, for example, is runnorexia or running addiction.

But another of the phenomena that is often talked about in these cases is that of vigorexia, a disorder suffered by those people who obsess over having a strong, muscular, low-fat body image ; despite having a well-developed musculature, these individuals show a rather thin and fragile appearance.

The vigorexia also receives the name of inverted anorexia, because these people are not deprived of food, but obsessed with eat a lot of proteins and they even use anabolics, which can cause side effects such as acne, breast enlargement, hair loss, mood swings, heart problems ...

For vigoréxicos, physical exercise is not synonymous with health, but what they seek is to achieve a perfect aesthetic sacrificing even their well-being.

What are your causes?

Experts conclude that the causes of vigorexia are varied. However, the environment plays an important role for the person to develop this disorder. Values ​​and beliefs, a consequence of the culture of the image , they play a determining role in how we value ourselves and how we see ourselves.

Thus, much of the obsession with the physical is determined by unreal expectations about the perfect body, which appears frequently in the media. This culture rewards physically attractive individuals and despises those who are not. And although this could be countered with the right education, the truth is that there are many people who they suffer because of their physical appearance.

Relationship between perfectionism and vigorexia

However, personal factors also seem to be relevant in the development of vigorexia. The perfectionist personality makes people fixate excessively on their body and are never happy with the image they have. This also makes them hard on themselves and carry out harmful behaviors like excessive training , the constant consumption of supplements, the obsession with diet, etc. Behaviors that do not stop being an attempt to approach the image of perfection of the body that they have in their mind.

Self-esteem also influences when it comes to assessing negatively, and the lack of confidence makes these people look for a way to feel better in the perfect body.

Finally, the vigorexia can be a consequence of family problems or emotional trauma of childhood, for example, after having suffered bullying.

Symptoms and signs

Vigorexia is a type of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), in which the sufferer is obsessed with their physical appearance and thinks about their body for many hours a day. Further, this constant comparison with the ideal of beauty It usually generates great anxiety and discomfort.

Therefore, it is necessary to treat this problem with the help of a professional, because it can significantly reduce the quality of life of the person and even cause other negative consequences such as depression. But how can this disorder be identified?

What are your symptoms? People with vigorexia :

  • Spend a lot of time taking care of your body image, for example, in the gym. What interferes with social life or performance in your work.
  • They look in the mirror every second and third.
  • They can prevent other people from seeing your body because of a lack of confidence (despite being fine).
  • They feel extreme anxiety or anguish if they do not train.
  • They carry out extreme diets.
  • They use anabolic or supplements harmful to health.


Vigorexia can have important consequences for the health of the person suffering from this disorder, as it can cause physical problems due to over-training or unhealthy diet, serious problems due to steroid use and even more mental health problems of the individual as, for example, severe depression. That is why the vigorexia should be treated by a professional psychologist specialized in this type of problem.

There are psychotherapy treatments that have been shown to be effective, for example, cognitive therapy based on mindfulness (MBCT), acceptance therapy or commitment or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) . This last one is, perhaps, the one that enjoys greater popularity and the one that offers the maximum guarantees.

Cognitive behavioral therapy applied to vigorexia aims to make the patient aware of how his beliefs and behavior are affecting his well-being, and then modify his way of thinking and behavior. For this, it uses different techniques such as social skills training or cognitive restructuring, among others.

  • Related article: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?"

Anorexia, Bulimia e Vigorexia: aprenda a reconhecer os distúrbios alimentares com Dr. Sproesser (June 2024).

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