Bigorexia, when sport becomes an obsession

Bigorexia, when sport becomes an obsession.

Are you familiar with the term "bigorexia"?

Bigorexia is an illness recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 2011, but is still little known in France. It can affect both top athletes and amateur sportsmen and women who have become addicted to it as a result of excessive sports practice.

The causes

Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain what leads to this addiction to sport.

The first hypothesis is the role of hormones. Endorphins are produced during sporting activity. These hormones are released by the brain during and especially after intense physical activity. They stimulate the pleasure circuit (known as dopaminergic), which explains the feeling of well-being in people practising a sport and would cause addiction.

The second hypothesis is that bigorexia has a more psychological origin. For some people, practising sport relieves stress, anxiety or pain linked to an event. Over time, this habit becomes indispensable and turns into an addiction.

The third hypothesis is that bigorexia could be linked to the Adonis complex. Intensive training is then a way to achieve a "perfect" body and to increase one's self-esteem. Shaping one's body, reaching a perfect weight, building up muscles to excess become obsessions. The practice then turns into an addiction.

Symptoms and dangers.

Unlike other addictions, bigorexia does not necessarily manifest itself physiologically.

For example, the evolution of the weight curve is not necessarily alarming. Moreover, it is not necessarily the time spent doing sport that reveals bigorexia, but rather the repercussions on private or professional life. The disease can be recognised by various symptoms:

  • Obsessive behaviour around sport.

People suffering from bigorexia spend more and more time on physical activity, leaving their personal and professional life behind. Sport becomes the priority and leads to social isolation.

  • An obsession with her body.

People then develop an obsession with their physique, their performance; this leads to a sacrifice of everything for the sake of sport.

  • Signs of withdrawal from sports activities.

People show withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of sports activity (in case of injury for example): sadness, irritability, guilt...

  • Not listening to your body anymore.

Addiction leads sportsmen and women to push their limits further and further, which can lead to exhaustion and sometimes serious injuries (stress fractures, muscle damage, etc.).

Our tips for fighting bigorexia.

Becoming aware of the phenomenon, getting informed, is a way of protecting yourself or taking a step towards recovery. Do not hesitate to talk about it.

As with any addiction, bigorexia can be treated with targeted therapy by a psychologist, specialist doctor and/or addictologist. The aim will not be to stop the activity completely but to learn to regain pleasure and restore freedom of choice in the practice.

Sport should remain a pleasure. It should not become a constraint.

Never lose sight of the reason you started doing sport. Keep it fun. Listen to your body and find moments of pleasure in your sports routine.

This is also why we created Elemat.

Justine & Mat

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