Normally people develop a certain degree of concern about physical appearance, this is an essential characteristic of the mentality of human beings that is associated with self-esteem. However, it can be influenced by various social pressures that establish the most accepted standards of physical beauty. Consequently, this concern turns into a negative aspect because self-destructive behaviors begin to be carried out.

It is an obsession and concern that leads the patient to pathological extremes . It is a mental condition that must be dealt with psychologically to prevent the damage caused in personal physical perception from continuing. Statistically, a considerable increase in cases of this type has been observed globally. Undoubtedly, it could be said that we are currently experiencing a historical period in which the physical aspect has an important relevance as a social fact.

Next we analyze what are the causes and consequences of this condition. Likewise, its characteristics and most common examples of its symptoms are described, finally the most appropriate treatments are exposed.

What is the Adonis complex?

Adonis Complex is a type of psychological condition that is also known by the name of muscle dysmorphia or vigorexia . The term encompasses a series of behaviors and mental problems that affect the perception of their own body image, this means that the patient does not have a realistic notion of their physical body.

Changes in behavior are adopted where there is an obsession with the practice of exercises and certain eating rituals. This is done in order to achieve specific goals such as losing weight or achieving a voluptuous figure characterized by developed muscle mass. Because these become an unwieldy obsession, these individuals will experience emotional ups and downs and are more likely to suffer from depression.

It results in a pathological problem that affects the body image which is compared with the impositions imposed by society itself. This is a disease that is usually diagnosed in individuals of the male gender, however there are also cases registered in women. There are also no limits on the ages of the patients, but a greater prevalence is usually observed in a sector of the population that ranges from 18 to 40 years of age.

The Adonis complex is a term used in association with an ancient story belonging to Greek mythology. The protagonist is Adonis was the perfect representation of masculine beauty , he was a being half man half God. He is widely known through different stories where he has participation as the most beautiful and perfect body, including these physical qualities would help him to capture the attention of the goddess of love called Aphrodite.

What are its characteristics and examples?

The main characteristic of this complex is observed in the obsession that these patients develop for their body image. Studies carried out in relation to this issue have determined that young men who practice physical activities are more likely to develop this condition. This is due to the fact that today’s society worldwide establish certain social pressure with this sector of the population, it becomes a necessity to have the perfect body as a means of adaptation.

Certain stereotypes that describe the ideal beauty or the athletic body par excellence are used as references. In this way, intrusive and obsessive thoughts are internalized in relation to these ideas, becoming a goal to be achieved. On the one hand it is possible that the patient develop a greater desire to increase muscle mass to achieve an athletic body, on the other hand others could practice any type of aesthetic procedure to fit the current beauty standards.

There is no unique way in which this complex manifests itself, each person develops behaviors and obsessions of a different nature . It depends largely on those physical characteristics that they consider should be eliminated or solved. For example, this is the case of those people who consider that they should lose weight, therefore they will put into practice any type of diet or strict diet.

The only way these patients can feel good about themselves is by making major changes to their bodies. Some measures may be more extreme than others, some patients have increased the consumption of anabolics or follow protein diets . Visits to gyms become a fundamental part of the daily life of these people, as well as the obsession to observe themselves through a mirror several times a day.

Practical examples 

How was described above each person to develop symptoms different from other cases. The most common example is found in the clear manifestation of an inordinate concern for one’s own body. This means that the patients will carry out a daily body weight check , they will also analyze the condition of the muscles or the skin. They become obsessed with the amount of body fat they have and will avoid consuming certain foods.

Another example is the excessive dependence on the practice of physical exercise. They will include the practice of different types of sports in their daily activities . They will combine the practice of these activities with a strict type of diet that could limit the consumption of essential foods for good health. It could be said that any type of sacrifice that could harm health will be put into practice in order to achieve the proposed objectives.

It is also observed that patients constantly observe themselves through mirrors or reflections. They will seek third party validation to feel good about themselves, they could include any type of cosmetic product or procedure. The use of body creams, makeup or the consumption of certain medications such as multivitamins will significantly increase.

What are your causes? 

Various causes have been associated with this type of complex, this is a disorder that develops differently between men and women. They are due to the fact that the type of social pressure imposed on each gender is different, this means that patients will focus on objectives specific to their gender. For this reason, in men there is a greater obsession with muscle mass, whereas women will try to fit into an ideal of universal feminine beauty .

The most prone patients are those with low self-esteem . The need to feel good about themselves makes them seek goals that they must meet in order to feel personal satisfaction. This situation is combined with a negative personal assessment and a lack of self-confidence, as a result a self-perception is obtained that lacks positive points. This is how they will constantly seek external approval as a resource to achieve mental well-being.

But without a doubt, a large part of the responsibility lies in the culture of the image. Certain beliefs and values ​​imposed by society promote physical stereotypes that should not be generalized. Understanding that each person is different from another, it is really difficult to make a majority of the population fit these standards.

Finally, bullying should also be mentioned as one of the possible causes. Conflicts developed with respect to one’s own physical image usually have their origin in comments or external attacks that focus on this topic. Consequently, the harassed people will feel uncomfortable with themselves, eventually they will try to improve or change those aspects that have been criticized.

How is it overcome and what are the most recommended treatments? 

The treatment that is usually applied in these cases is psychotherapy, it is considered to be the most effective treatment to overcome this complex. It is useful because it helps patients identify and change negative patterns of thought and behavior. These same are replaced by more realistic thoughts and objectives, in this way it is possible to enter a more positive state of mind.

There are multiple varieties of these treatments, each of which is tailored to the needs of the patient. For example, there is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (TCBM), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). All of them combine diverse resources and tactics that help the patient to accept himself and adopt attitudes that are not harmful to his body and health.

The most recognized therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , which encompasses a wide variety of cognitive restructuring techniques. It is combined with other types of techniques such as direct exposure and psychosocial skills training. The objective is to be able to identify those elements that have influenced the development of this condition, these are harmful beliefs and behaviors that must be limited.

Because in some cases an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive compulsive process is observed, it becomes a disorder in which deficiencies in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters are involved. In these cases and psychiatric therapy resorts to the use of drugs such as antidepressants and anxiolytics , these must be administered under strict medical supervision.

The best type of treatment is one that maintains a multidisciplinary approach , the combination of different types of resources and techniques will help the patient in a more effective way. The help of a nutritionist is also required to guide the patient to improve their diet and indicate which physical activities are best suited to their physical condition.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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