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Bigorexia: A Dangerous Push to Bulk Up

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Images of the perfect male body are everywhere - magazines, movies and TV - and maybe, right next to you at the gym.  The competitive push to keep up and get fit can be healthy.

But for a growing number of men, the idea that bigger is better turns dangerous in the form of a complex psychiatric disorder called bigorexia, or muscle dysmorphia.  Men with the disorder don't see muscular in the mirror.  Instead, they see scrawny and weak.

"Bigorexia is a counterpart to anorexia," explained Lisa Geraud, Executive Clinical Director for the Eating Recovery Center of Washington.  "Where there is a relentless pursuit of thinness in anorexia, there is a relentless pursuit for increasing muscularity and muscle size in bigorexia."

Men with bigorexia can be obsessive about their diet and unmerciful at the gym, missing work, school and social events to exercise.

"If reaching that goal forces them to start doing something that takes away from their regular life, day to day life, there's something there that we need to address," Masterson said.  "For example, a willingness to sacrifice additional family time or work time  - an unnecessary amount - just to be at the gym."

That extreme exercise routine doesn't include time for rest - and that carries the risk of bone, joint and muscle injuries.  And the never ending quest to bulk up often goes dangerously beyond weightlifting.

"They may fall prey to anabolic steroids which can cause renal and liver damage and also psychological damage through mood disorders," Geraud said.

There's no solid figure on how many men have bigorexia, but eating disorder experts say the number is growing. While men suffering from it focus on physical strength, the cure lies in the power of the mind.

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