What is Vigorexia Disorder or Addiction to Sports?

19th December 2019
Vigorexia can be a serious condition that needs treatment from a professional.

Vigorexia disorder is very serious and affects young people of all ages. By reading this article you’ll be able to find out if a person has this ailment.

This is a condition that’s now more and more common in athletes. What’s more, it’s an addiction to sports. It has other peculiarities that we’ll be talking about in detail.

This issue is a perfect example of eating disorders. Or it can be a problem with body image that can include athletes. So what happens when a person has vigorexia? Consequently, they form an obsession and an addiction to physical exercise. 

In fact, those athletes that train daily and exercise more than 10 hours each week are considered to have it. In most cases, these people have low self-esteem and a hard time interacting with others.

Vigorexia is a mental distortion of the proportions of the body. It can cause bone and joint problems. Likewise, it can generate muscular problems and wear out the body. Even more, it can cause problems in families and at work. 

On a larger scale, people who suffer from this addiction work out continually. They don’t think of the harm they may be doing. This condition mainly affects people from the ages of 17 to 26 years old. You’ll recognize these people because they can’t miss a single day at the gym. Frequently, they’ll even go outside in extreme weather in order to exercise.

How do you recognize a person who is addicted to sports?

Not everyone who loves to exercise or lift weight regularly has vigorexia. But individuals that are diagnosed with this condition, have a lot of anxiety. Of course, this has a negative effect on their daily lives.

However, there are some traits that help recognize a person who suffers from this condition:

  • An exaggerated obsession to have a toned body.
  • Narcissistic personality, that causes people to continually look in the mirror or at least several times a day.
  • Altered perception of reality.
A woman lifting weights in a gym who may have vigorexia disorder
  • Spend several hours in the gym training, ignoring other daily tasks.
  • Follow a diet rich in protein and carbohydrates to increase muscle mass.
  • Prioritize behavior and activities for muscle building. In fact, doing this more than working, school, and personal relationships.
  • These people are never satisfied with their current muscle mass.
  • People take an excessive amount of supplements and products to build muscles. They may abuse steroids or substances.
  • They’re compulsive and compare the size of their bodies with other athletes.
  • Those with this disorder follow strict rules: training sessions have a major place in the day and the week. Also, this applies to their food supplements.
  • Incessant training, in spite of injuries that haven’t healed.
  • Personal and professional lives are somewhat sacrificed.

Conclusions about vigorexia disorder

Regular physical exercise is essential to stay healthy. On the other hand, too much can compromise your health. Also, as you’ve been able to observe in this article,  vigorexia disorder is considered an emotional illness. It distorts the perception that a person has about their body. 

The main point is that the increase in muscle mass has a positive effect on the confidence of these people. However, obsessions and negative thought patterns turn into an addiction. This happens when the person doesn’t see progress. Therefore, as with any addiction, it isn’t healthy for the body.

Photo of a man body building as an obsession a described by the text.

The addiction to exercise can cause injury to some athletes. In fact, it can lead to taking medicines or substances to improve performance. Even worse, it can bring diseases and health problems.

Although it’s true that all sports can lead to vigorexia. It’s thought that culture can provoke excessive attention to the body. Also, it can lead to excessive training or substance use to develop muscle mass.

In any case, with all mental health problems, the first stage is to talk about it. A cure is completely possible. At the same time, the person must admit and recognize the addiction. 

In conclusion, we recommend talking to any person with this problem. Then try to convince the individual to seek help from a psychologist.

  • Mosley, P. E. (2009). Bigorexia: Bodybuilding and muscle dysmorphia. European Eating Disorders Review, 17(3), 191–198. https://doi.org/10.1002/erv.897
  • Molina, J. M. R., & Alcón, M. F. R. (2011). Vigorexia: de la adicción al ejercicio a entidad nosológica independiente. Health and Addictions / Salud y Drogas. Instituto de Investigacion de Drogodependencias.
  • Lorán Meler, M. E., & Sánchez Planell, L. (2005). Bigorexia. FMC Formacion Medica Continuada En Atencion Primaria, 12(8), 522–526. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1134-2072(05)71240-8