muscle dysmorphia

Muscle Dysmorphia, And The Crush Of Stress On Confidence…

What Are The Symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia?


Muscle dysmorphia is a complex mental health condition that largely affects how individuals perceive their bodies, particularly their muscle size.

Common symptoms include obsessive thoughts about muscle size, extreme dieting, and excessive exercise.

It’s a pervasive issue that can have a significant impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being.



Is There A Link Between Stress, Muscle Dysmorphia, Anxiety, and Depression?

A Closer Look…


Muscle dysmorphia is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) that specifically deals with the obsession over someone’s muscularity or perceived lack thereof.

While this condition stands as its own unique entity, it is crucial to recognise that it does not exist in isolation.

Muscle dysmorphia often intersects with other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, primarily driven by stress.

To understand the intricate relationship between these disorders, we must first delve into the effects of stress on the human mind and body, and how it serves as a catalyst for muscle dysmorphia.



The Pervasiveness of Stress

Stress, defined as the body’s response to any demand or challenge, can manifest from various sources, ranging from daily pressures at work or school to more profound life events like the death of a loved one.

In the short term, stress can be beneficial, allowing individuals to react quickly to situations, and enhancing performance and focus.

However, chronic stress, if left unchecked, wreaks havoc on the human psyche and physiology.



Is Stress a Precursor to Muscle Dysmorphia?

In the modern world, where physical appearances often dominate societal judgments and personal self-worth, many individuals feel pressured to attain an ‘ideal’ physique.

This pressure can lead to chronic stress, especially if individuals believe they aren’t meeting these societal expectations.

Over time, such stress can escalate into an obsession, leading to muscle dysmorphia. Individuals with this disorder experience a distorted view of their bodies, believing they are too skinny or not muscular enough, even if they have a well-developed musculature.

The perpetual feeling of not being ‘good enough’ and the continuous quest for perfection can intensify the stress, creating a vicious cycle.



The Spiral into Anxiety and Depression

Chronic stress doesn’t just increase the risk of muscle dysmorphia; it also paves the way for other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

When the body encounters stress, it releases hormones such as cortisol.

While beneficial in short bursts, prolonged exposure to these hormones can lead to symptoms of anxiety, including restlessness, excessive worry, and feelings of dread.

Furthermore, the continuous state of stress means the body is constantly in a state of ‘fight or flight.’

Such a state can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, contributing to symptoms of depression.

This includes feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, and diminished interest in previously enjoyed activities.



How Does Muscle Dysmorphia Exacerbate Anxiety and Depression?

Individuals with muscle dysmorphia constantly grapple with feelings of inadequacy, intensifying the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The obsessive nature of the disorder means individuals are always hyper-aware of their perceived flaws, resulting in an incessant state of worry and rumination.

Such a state can further escalate feelings of worthlessness, despondency, and gloom.

Moreover, muscle dysmorphia often leads individuals to go to extreme lengths to enhance their physique.

This could include over-exercising, steroid abuse, and extreme dieting.

These measures, while aiming to alleviate feelings of inadequacy, can exacerbate states of anxiety and depression.

For instance, steroid abuse is linked to mood swings and can worsen depression symptoms.



Stress: So, What is the Link Between Anxiety, Depression and Bigorexia?

In essence, stress acts as a linchpin connecting muscle dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression.

The overwhelming pressure to conform to societal standards can lead to chronic stress, creating fertile ground for the onset of muscle dysmorphia.

Once entrenched, the disorder can further escalate feelings of stress, perpetuating a cycle that paves the way for anxiety and depression.

Recognising these interconnected links is vital for treatment that includes the two key areas for change – body, and mind, and underscores the importance of managing general day-to-day stress in today’s high-pressure society.



What Are Some Self-Care Ideas?

Self care ideas and routines can be a path to stable, improved mental health states.

And some simple inclusions throughout the day can have a considerable impact when exercised regularly, with consistency, and persistence.

  • Adequate sleep (which includes both duration and quality) is one of the greatest performance-enhancing drugs we carry with us, which is both available and free!
  • Healthy nutrition is always a go-to on the improvement list – and whilst there are a million people telling you what’s ‘right for you’, I’m pretty sure that the majority of us know what’s not so good for us – as cleverly as we might try to convince ourselves that there are quality carbs in that doughnut!
  • Mindfulness practices can mitigate stress in the moment or as a more long-term strategy with regular use

Creating a balanced routine with your self-help ideas can begin to reduce stress levels over time, and help create a needed stepping stone to a better state of mental health which in turn can have progressive outcomes with concerns such as muscle dysmorphia.



The Role of Hypnotherapy

Solution-focused hypnotherapy can play an important role in the need for change when experiencing the concern of Bigorexia.

Unlike traditional methods, hypnotherapy focuses on the natural process of neuroplasticity (the brain’s natural way of change) to influence behaviour changes.

It’s exceptionally calming, reducing the effects of the fight or flight response that often accompanies stress and muscle dysmorphia, and in this moment of quiet the mind intensely focuses on solutions to problems, and how to implement them within life.

Hypnotherapy is also an effective way to instill positive coping mechanisms.

It can help you to navigate through the stressful emotional maze that accompanies states of anxiety, depression, and bouts of anger, enabling you to see more clearly and be creative in your problem-solving thinking.

Solution focused therapy combined with hypnosis can assist you in carving simple, attainable, and manageable paths through the woods of despair, reducing and eventually removing many of the symptoms often associated with muscle dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression.


🌐 Sources

American Psychological Association – Understanding Chronic Stress

Muscle Dysmorphia: Current Research and Potential Classification as a Disorder

Harvard Health – Understanding the Stress Response

Mayo Clinic – Anxiety Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health – Depression

Eating Disorder Hope – Muscle Dysmorphia

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Anabolic Steroids and the Brain


🌐 Resources

Obsessed With My Muscles: UNTOLD – Ch4


London Hypnotherapy – Body Dysmorphia Hypnosis

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