Excessive bodybuilding: ‘bigorexia’ or addiction?

As growing numbers of men become eager to meet the male body’s increasingly muscular ideal, the practice of bodybuilding has grown in popularity. Yet few studies have considered whether excessive bodybuilding could be seen as a mental illness demanding specialized treatment.

A recent study published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry discovered promising evidence for the categorisation of excessive bodybuilding as a form of muscle dysmorphia, typified by a desire to be unnaturally muscular, otherwise known as ‘bigorexia’.

Comparing the brain activity of bodybuilders with endurance sportsmen, researchers presented subjects with pictures of either bodybuilding-related objects or body parts. They found higher levels of brain activity among bodybuilders while viewing the body pictures, suggesting excessive bodybuilding is more closely aligned with ‘bigorexia’ than addiction.

The study’s lead author, Moritz Maier, hopes that these findings may help to classify excessive bodybuilding with new clarity, paving the way for the development of specialized treatment options for affected persons.

For an interview, please contact:
Moritz J. Maier
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Teubingen, Germany
Email: moritz.maier@med.uni-tuebingen.de