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Bigorexia

What is Bigorexia (also referred to as muscle dysmorphia or reverse anorexia)? It’s a form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (DSM 5) that results in a variety of obsessive-compulsive behaviors regarding diet and fitness Individuals with bigorexia develop an obsession with their muscularity believing themselves to be too weak and small no matter how big their muscles are. The condition is also referred to as ‘reverse anorexia.’ In anorexia, a person diets excessively due to a fear of gaining weight but fails to see himself thin enough, in contrast, in bigorexia, the person eats excessively especially high-protein foods to develop a big body but fails to ever see himself big enough.

It’s characterized by an intense fear that one is insufficiently muscular no matter how muscular he is in the reality:

  • An excessive drive to enhance the visible appearance of muscularity.
  • Accompanying behaviors include excessive working out behavior (oriented towards both building muscularity and reducing body fat, which obscures the visibility of muscularity), which takes precedence over other important areas of life,
  • Excessive regulation of dietary intake (over-regulation of protein intake, and/or the reduction of carbohydrates and fats), 
  • Use of appearance enhancing substances such as anabolic androgenic steroids.
  • Extreme muscularity is not a defining feature of MD, and the core features may occur along a spectrum of widely varying degrees of muscularity.

Who gets it? 


Although men are most susceptible, both men and women can be affected by this disorder. Approximately 10% of the men who are obsessive gym-goers have this disorder

What are the symptoms of bigorexia?

  • Missing social events and skipping work to workout
  • Working out despite an injury
  • Maintaining extreme workout methods
  • Maintaining a strict high-protein diet
  • Using excessive amounts of food supplements
  • Frequently looking in the mirror
  • Never being satisfied with the muscular mass of one’s body
  • Anabolic-Androgenic steroid abuse
  • Unnecessary plastic surgery
  • Distorted self image
  • Avoiding situations where one’s body might be exposed

Long-term effects of bigorexia

Individuals who suffer from bigorexia follow very strict diets, and they will rarely eat at someone else’s house or at a restaurant because they cannot control the dietary balance or know what exactly was put into the meal, which could leads some individuals to develop eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, high blood pressure, can cause liver failure and heart attacks.

Also, the use of drugs such as anabolic steroids is a common occurrence among bigorexics. Men continue to use steroids despite the side effects they experience, such as acne, impotence, baldness, breast enlargement, increased aggression, testicular shrinkage and impotence.

How is it treated?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Enhaced (CBT-E) is the most effective treatment for bigorexia. CBT-E is a special kind of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) developed by Prof Christopher Fairburn (Oxford University) that is specifically designed to treat the Eating Disorders

Multi Disciplinary Team

Carine el Khazen Hadati
Carine el Khazen Hadati

Clinical Psychologist, Director of ED Program

Dubai

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Maya Fleifel Sidani
Maya Fleifel Sidani

Clinical Psychologist

Dubai

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Hala Abu Taha
Hala Abu Taha

Dietitian

Abu Dhabi and Dubai

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Dr. George Sawers
Dr. George Sawers

General Practitioner

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Najwan Al-Roubaiy
Dr. Najwan Al-Roubaiy

Psychologist, Head of Psychology Team - Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Junaid Hassim
Dr. Junaid Hassim

Clinical Psychologist

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Samra Tahir
Dr. Samra Tahir

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Samer Makhoul
Dr. Samer Makhoul

Consultant Psychiatrist, Deputy CMO, Head of Psychiatry Department

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Nasser El Hindy
Dr. Nasser El Hindy

Consultant Psychiatrist, Medical Director

Dubai

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