Megarexia or Muscle Dysmorphia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Megarexia is a disorder suffered by obese people, who are unable to recognize their health problem. Fortunately, an early psychological approach is key to improving the condition and avoiding complications.
Megarexia or Muscle Dysmorphia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Last update: 16 January, 2023

Obesity and excess weight are conditions with a high prevalence worldwide. In general, these conditions are accompanied by poor dietary behaviors that worsen the state of health. Megarexia, whose official name is muscle dysmorphia,  is a recently discovered eating disorder, the incidence of which has increased in the last decade.

Megarexia (or bigorexia) is a term developed in 1992 by Dr. Jaime Brugos, author of the book Isoprotein Diet. It’s a little-known eating disorder characterized by a distorted view of the body in obese patients. In this sense, the patient is unable to recognize his excess weight.

Studies describe this condition as the significant underestimation of body size by obese subjects. In general, the symptoms of megarexia are usually perceived by friends and family, since the affected person is not aware of the problem.

Symptoms of megarexia

People with megarexia are unaware of their disease.
If an obese person is not aware of their health problem, it’s very difficult for lifestyle changes to be taken seriously to treat the disease.

In most cases, megarexia is related to anorexia, but it causes the opposite effect in people. This is an eating disorder characterized by a healthy perception of the body in an obese person.

It’s common for patients to be unable to visualize what their physique really is like when looking in the mirror. In general, they tend to be perceived as having a good physique and not being overweight. In addition, people with megarexia don’t usually admit their problems with food, and continue following an unhealthy diet.

In this sense, body distortion promotes harmful behavioral changes with direct effects on physical and emotional state. Some of the most common symptoms of megarexia are the following:

On the other hand, affected people often use different methods to avoid facing reality. Such is the case of going shopping infrequently, avoiding uploading photos to social networks, or not having many mirrors in the home. In addition, they often show irritability and hostility when talking about being overweight.

Why is it produced?

Currently, there’s no specific cause to explain the origin of megarexia. In this sense, genetic, environmental, and social factors that promote this type of behavior are all attributed. In addition, psychological disorders and personality alterations also play a fundamental role in the genesis of this condition.

Some research maintains that eating disorders arise from the obsession of individuals to control their weight and adjust to social standards. In this sense, the lack of coping strategies lead to inadequate problem management, which promotes states of avoidance and denial.

On the other hand, cultural and family components can directly influence the development of megarexia. The cultural dogma that weight is synonymous with health and vitality can stimulate excess consumption habits. In addition, it’s associated with the inability of people to recognize their condition.

Complications and adverse effects

Complications from this eating disorder result from sustained long-term excess weight and obesity. Similarly, high-calorie diets rich in fats and carbohydrates, as well as a lack of exercise, promote many different adverse health effects, among which we find the following:

  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Gastritis
  • Mellitus diabetes
  • Dyslipidemias
  • Malnutrition due to excess
  • Depression and anxiety


Megarexia requires multidisciplinary management by various specialists. The treatment plan should be aimed at identifying and solving the triggering cause of the problem through the guidance of a specialist in psychology. Behavioral therapies are often very useful in controlling eating disorders.

Similarly, the use of medication to control urges and bingeing may be necessary. Additionally, stomach reduction surgical procedures can help control symptoms. Likewise, this type of surgery is a good option in patients with morbid obesity and cardiovascular risk.

However, the mainstay of megarexia treatment is based on establishing new healthy dietary habits and starting a light to moderate exercise plan. In this way, the risk of suffering long-term health complications is significantly reduced, in addition to acquiring a better quality of life.

Prevention of megarexia

Megarexia can be prevented.
Changing your diet and promoting healthy habits (such as exercise) are some of the fundamental keys to avoiding the development of excess weight or obesity.

In most cases, it,s possible to take preventive measures to prevent the development of this disorder. The main goal is education and correction of unhealthy eating habits. It’s advisable to promote consumption limits, as well as following the following recommendations:

  • Avoid attending places where overeating is promoted
  • Maintain a balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid carbonated drinks
  • Reduce the consumption of desserts and foods rich in fat
  • Perform physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week

An increasingly common eating disorder

Megarexia is a little-known eating disorder that is becoming more common every day. It promotes the incorrect perception of a healthy body in an obese person. For this reason, it conditions bad eating habits and little physical activity. In addition, it’s associated with various long-term fatal complications.

In general, it’s advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible if any of the symptoms of megarexia are suspected. Specialist physicians are trained to recognize any of these conditions and provide the best guide to recovery.

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