Although it was described in 1993 by Pope in regular bodybuilders to go to the gym and the side effects of anabolic steroids in these people, in the manual DSM-IV, was included within the dysmorphobias, now in the DSM-V, is included as a body dysmorphic disorder, it is considered that muscular dysmorphia or vigorexia is a disorder in which the person is obsessed by their physical condition to pathological levels.
These people have a distorted view of themselves and look weak and unattractive. For this reason, the disorder directly affects their eating behavior and lifestyle, and is characterized by extreme physical activity, up to 3 hours of daily exercise, in some cases, abandoning social relationships and neglecting other aspects of their lives, to devote all their time to training.
Although it especially affects young men between the ages of 18 and 35, there is no age limit and we have also seen cases of women obsessed compulsively by this deformation of self-image.
Exercise addiction is accompanied by an exaggerated intake of proteins and carbohydrates and the abusive consumption of substances such as anabolic steroids, in order to increase muscle mass and achieve a muscular body.
-Possible causes of the epidemic:
Although the canons of body beauty are a fact that goes back some time in the history of humanity, since the beginning of the twenty-first century the cult of the body takes on a new dimension.
It is a modern obsession for the perfection of the body that has different ways of manifesting itself and shares common symptomatology under the desire for a perfect body image.
Eating Disorders and problems with one’s own body image were considered typical of the feminine gender. However, in the last decade of the last century it became clear that men also received pressure on their body image, that of fitness or muscle development without fat.
The male ideal in the media has changed over time. Federico, Fessler and Hasselton in 2005 pointed out that the male ideal is increasingly muscular, surpassing even what women prefer as such.
Exposure to male beauty ideals has been shown to increase muscle dissatisfaction with advertisements that do not contain such images, this pressure reaches even children’s toys.
On the other hand, excessive exercise can cause addictive behaviour that is psychologically rewarded in various ways, for example, by improving mood, improving health or providing more opportunities for social interaction (positive reinforcement) and these rewards can encourage behaviour.
Although it does not always occur in vigorexia, abuse of AAS (Anabolic Androgenic Steroids), synthetic substances related to male sex hormones (testosterone), is not uncommon.
By taking high doses of these hormones, along with intense weight gain and adequate nutrition, AAS users can dramatically increase their muscle mass, often beyond what could be achieved by natural methods.
On the internet you can easily find the most varied websites, aimed at fitness practitioners, which include what they call in the slang “cycles”, to “define” the musculature. However, in the short term the consumption of AAS is associated with alopecia, high cholesterol, acne, gynecomastia and testicular atrophy and infertility or sexual dysfunction.
Withdrawal from a steroid cycle may lead to depression. Or to present eating behaviors of pathological type and a poor body image when the individuals practice exercise to avoid feeling bad (negative affections), in comparison with the people who practice it for other reasons.
A link has also been established between Vigorexia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), in that such individuals become obsessed with the idea of whether they are muscular enough. Compulsions manifest themselves by spending many more hours in the gym, wasting large amounts of money on useless sports supplements, having an abnormal food intake, and even resorting to substance abuse.
Just as we are witnessing the epidemic of obesity, the obsession with body image is also worrying, eating a healthy diet, with the practice of exercising one hour a day, is sufficient.
The use of anabolic agents should be reserved, even if they are legal, for very specific cases and in a medical context, being absolutely inadvisable, self-medication, we should never allow ourselves to be carried away by the unauthorized opinion of a gymmate or sports practice.
Other new disorders:
Megarexia is an eating disorder in which the obese person sees himself as thin and healthy, and therefore does not seek medical help to treat his illness.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder that consists of an obsession to consume foods that the affected person considers healthy, rejecting all those that cannot be included in this category from their particular point of view.