Bigorexia or when sports become addictive

Also called the "Adonis complex" or "muscle dysmorphia" or "inverted anorexia", BIGOREXIA is an increasingly common condition in contemporary society, suffering that mainly affects the male sex.

The pressure of modern society, which values ​​the "ideal" weak female body (read anorexic) and muscular male, worked, weak in adipose tissue, favors the development of this disorder and the current scale of the social phenomenon. Of course, dissatisfaction with body image has always been a problem: since medieval times, it seems that men, out of a desire to look more muscular and masculine, filled their shirts with hay.

Recognized by the World Health Organization since 2011, introduced by DSM V (Manual of Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders) in 2013 in bodily dysmorphic disorder, bigorexia is characterized by a compulsive, obsessive and irrepressible need to practice regularly and intensely activities. despite the long-term negative consequences on physical and mental health. Numerous studies show that the most affected people are those who practice bodybuilding and endurance sports.

Described since 1970 by the American psychiatrist William Glasser, to be differentiated from other addictions, sports addiction has long been considered a "positive" addiction. Those who train daily and exceed 10 hours of training per week can be affected by this disorder, which can lead to physical, mental, family, social, professional problems.

The person suffering from this addiction organizes his entire social life around sport, which becomes the absolute priority. Even on holidays, the choice of destination or hotel is made according to the existing conditions to practice your favorite sport, friends are chosen according to participation in marathons, and outings with friends or family in the evening are rare, because the pace and training program « must be respected.

In more serious cases, this addiction can lead to a marital breakup or even job loss. Eating behaviors change completely (no fat, high protein intake, dietary supplements and vitamins, sometimes even steroids) and thus affecting a person's health.

Signs and symptoms

  •  Intense sensation of being too weak, despite well-developed muscles
  •  Imperious and obsessive desire to change your body shape through intense daily physical training
  •  Rituals and rigid rules regarding physical training, nutrition and sometimes the consumption of supplements or other products to increase muscle mass
  •  Intense guilt, associated with frustration, in the situation where the person fails to do all self-imposed physical training
  •  Daily involvement, several hours a day and more than 10 hours a week in training at the expense of the actor recreational activities
  •  The presence of exhaustion, fatigue, fractures and other injuries related to the absence of the necessary recovery periods.
  •  Negative repercussions on self-esteem, mood and emotional or social life.

Why addiction? What's really going on?

Sport involves the release of endorphins, responsible for well-being and the feeling of fullness, athletes seeking to feel this pleasure, again and again, until the person becomes the slave of his object…, in our case intense sport, which is invested as something good. The reasons are diverse: from the desire for "body remodeling", to the need to fill an emotional or professional gap, to push the boundaries, or to have a better self-esteem.

From a psychodynamic point of view, bigorexia, like any addiction, be it tobacco, alcohol or food, is a psychosomatic solution to mental suffering. As always, the purpose of addictive behavior is to escape the path of affections (anger, anxiety that risks flooding the psyche, narcissistic frailties, etc.) to get rid of them, to euphoria, the satisfaction brought by this discharge through sports. There are authors who understand this addiction as a direct expression of a "right to exist", as a repetition of the struggle and the victory (passenger) in the battle for autonomy and control.

As in other eating disorders, early detection is important, but all the more difficult as the person in question denies that he has a problem, he even looks and feels very healthy. Psychotherapy, sometimes combined with drug treatment, can solve this problem.

So, let's do sports, but in moderation! "Too much" can be as bad as "too little"!