Bigorexia hits the news

Bigorexia is the nifty media-friendly soundbite term that doesn’t truly do justice to what men experience when they go through this debilitating condition currently known as muscle dysmorphia. Me-oh-my – how it has hit the news! This image captures an ultra-simplified representation of what can occur:

muscle dysmorphiaN.B. the image is not mine, rightful credit is due.

A man with bigorexia struggles, often alone, locked in a perpetual stream of negative self-talk – a vicious circle of seeing a deeply disappointing under-developed body instead of the evidence of all their hard work in sculpting a physique worthy of Thor.

The physical effects can be difficult enough if left unchecked – particularly if steroids are involved. However, the social and emotional isolation, the feelings of being unworthy and the knock-on effect on a man’s ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships beyond those of his gym commitments are the real toll.

But I’m generalising. Instead, I’ve put together a small bibliography of studies that are worth a look, and which add a useful perspective to the (albeit much-needed) media coverage. These are papers that I felt offered an informed basis for understanding the issue and its genesis. Some of them go back almost twenty years but I’ve included them as they provide a glimpse into the early work that gave a springboard to where we are today – and being into hermeneutics, I’m all about that!

Any questions, just ask, I’m happy to talk about understanding gained from the research I’m doing.


Muscle Dysmorphia Research Papers & Books

Choi, P., Pope, H. and Olivardia, R. (2002) Muscle dysmorphia: a new syndrome in weightlifters. Br J Sports Med, 36 (5), pp.375-376

Dalgliesh, J. and Nutt, K. (2013) Treating men with eating disorders in the NHS. Nursing Standard, 27 (35), pp.42-46

Grieve, F. G. (2007) A conceptual model of factors contributing to the development of muscle dysmorphia. Eat Disord, 15 (1), pp.63-80

Grieve, F. G., Truba, N. and Bowersox, S. (2009) Etiology, Assessment, and Treatment of Muscle Dysmorphia. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23 (4), pp.306-314

Griffiths, S., Mond, J. M., Murray, S. B. and Touyz, S. (2013) Young peoples’ stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs about anorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia. Int J Eat Disord

Harvey, J. A. and Robinson, J. D. (2003) Eating disorders in men: Current considerations. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 10 (4), pp.297-306

Hildebrandt, T., Schlundt, D., Langenbucher, J. and Chung, T. (2006) Presence of muscle dysmorphia symptomology among male weightlifters. Compr Psychiatry, 47 (2), pp.127-135

Hitzeroth, V., Wessels, C., Zungu‐Dirwayi, N., Oosthuizen, P. and Stein, D. J. (2001) Muscle dysmorphia: a South African sample. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 55 (5), pp.521-523

Leit, R. A., Gray, J. J. and Pope, H. G. (2002) The media’s representation of the ideal male body: A cause for muscle dysmorphia? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31 (3), pp.334-338

Leone, J. E., Sedory, E. J. and Gray, K. A. (2005) Recognition and treatment of muscle dysmorphia and related body image disorders. Journal of Athletic Training, 40 (4), pp.352

Mosley, P. E. (2009) Bigorexia: bodybuilding and muscle dysmorphia. Eur Eat Disord Rev, 17 (3), pp.191-198

Murray, S. B., Rieger, E., Hildebrandt, T., Karlov, L., Russell, J., Boon, E., Dawson, R. T. and Touyz, S. W. (2012) A comparison of eating, exercise, shape, and weight related symptomatology in males with muscle dysmorphia and anorexia nervosa. Body Image, 9 (2), pp.193-200

Murray, S. B., Rieger, E., Touyz, S. W. and De la Garza Garcia Lic, Y. (2010) Muscle dysmorphia and the DSM-V conundrum: where does it belong? A review paper. Int J Eat Disord, 43 (6), pp.483-491

Nieuwoudt, J. E., Zhou, S., Coutts, R. A. and Booker, R. (2012) Muscle dysmorphia: Current research and potential classification as a disorder. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13 (5), pp.569-577

Olivardia, R. (2001) Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the largest of them all? The features and phenomenology of muscle dysmorphia. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 9 (5), pp.254-259

Pope, C. G., Pope, H. G., Menard, W., Fay, C., Olivardia, R. and Phillips, K. A. (2005) Clinical features of muscle dysmorphia among males with body dysmorphic disorder. Body Image, 2 (4), pp.395-400

Pope Jr, H. G., Gruber, A. J., Choi, P., Olivardia, R. and Phillips, K. A. (1997) Muscle dysmorphia: an underrecognized form of body dysmorphic disorder. Psychosomatics, 38 (6), pp.548-557

Rhea, D., Lantz, C. and Cornelius, A. (2004) Development of the muscle dysmorphia inventory (MDI). Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 44 (4), pp.428-435

Suffolk, M. T., Dovey, T. M., Goodwin, H. and Meyer, C. (2013) Muscle dysmorphia: methodological issues, implications for research. Eat Disord, 21 (5), pp.437-457



If anyone reading this is experiencing bigorexia or knows someone who is, then the following is a reasonable place to start: Morgan, J. F. (2008) The invisible man : a self-help guide for men with eating disorders, compulsive exercise and bigorexia. London: Routledge