BBC Newsbeat has found out that one in every ten men in the UK could be suffering from a mental disorder that could drive men to abuse their bodies, overdose on steroids and even drive them to depression and suicide.

Also known muscle dysmorphia, bigorexia is, as the name would imply, a body image disorder almost similar to anorexia. While anorexics see themselves as too fat even if they are actually already bone thin, bigorexics see themselves as lanky when they are actually already big and muscular.

"We know about 10% of men in the gym may have muscle dysmorphia" Rob Willson of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation. "Sometimes individuals can become very depressed and hopeless and that can even lead to suicide." Willson added that bigorexia is a cause of concern, not only because of the rising number of cases but also because many of them go undiagnosed. 

No one knows what can cause bigorexia, though like most mental disorders, genetics, brain function abnormalities and life experiences are considerable factors. Willson also believes that the mental pressure that would eventually cause bigorexia came from men being conditioned to believe that a buff appearance is the image of success and attractiveness.

"We're seeing an increased pressure on men to look muscular, create a 'V' shape and have a six pack," He said. "There are all these media pressures now...and men are probably going to have to catch up a bit in terms of coping with the pressure to look a certain way."

In the UK, stories of bigorexics are pouring in. Pradeep Bala's bigorexia story began when he started comparing himself with the figures of muscle-bound men in magazines. "I'm that classic story of seeing a guy in the magazine and wanting to be that."Bala explained.

Bala had been dedicated to his goal, sticking to his diet and working out religiously. However, even after attaining a body that looked straight out of a fitness magazine, Bala can only see a lackluster physique in the mirror.

"I'm definitely small and I tell myself, 'What's happened to you? You're small, what's wrong with you? Look at yourself, what have you done?' "Bala described, adding that these thoughts would eventually drive him to become more anxious and depressed.

Bala said that he realized that he may have bigorexia in his late teens but did not take it too seriously at the beginning. "It was only years later when I would see a few documentaries and when the term came about I realised I might have an issue," he said. "I was dissatisfied no matter what I saw in the mirror, no matter who told me I looked good."

Some of the symptoms for bigorexia include overexertion while working out, excessively looking at the mirror, abusing steroids, protein shakes and other body building substances, depression and mania especially upon missing an exercise and prioritizing bodybuilding over family, friends, work and other responsibilities. People diagnosed with bigorexia are being treated with anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Photo: Petar Jurina | Flickr

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