The Adonis Complex : The Battle With Body Image

Body image…the preoccupation afflicting millions of people the world over stems from ones fascination with the way their bodies look. This often debilitating condition seems to be affecting more and more men and women and has since been given the title… the Adonis Complex.

The Adonis Complex

Pope, Phillips and Olivardia, (2000) first coined the term ‘Adonis Complex’ based on the Greek God of beauty and desire. The researchers described it as an obsession with body image that mainly affects men. The complex can be so severe that cases of anorexia nervosa, and even reverse anorexia nervosa are on the rise! Upon questioning, many males reported feeling small and weak despite their muscular appearance, this is known as muscle dysmorphia and is particularly common in adolescents and young males.

Why is the Adonis Complex so common?

Humans are prejudice in nature, granted many have trained themselves out of this mentality to be less judgemental and superficial, but even the most holy of people still judge on a day to day basis. We all know this, and consequently many are (consciously or sub-consciously) influenced by what people might think. Humans want to fit in, many feel they have to conform, whilst lots of people break the mould and go the other way dressing in extrovert, extravagant attire to celebrate their individuality. For some though, this ability to break free from the chains of conformity is not so easy, for some…they are just never satisfied!

Some people are never satisfied

Rightly or wrongly, this is true for many. I for one will probably never be completely content with my physique (there’s a lot to improve on after all), but although I can see that I have a body that many would be pleased with…self satisfaction is completely relative. For some though, there is no finish line, there is no feeling of contentment and this is true to all genders. In particular, males have been seen to compulsively lift weights, exercise, abuse drugs and even go under the knife in the pursuit of a ‘perfect body’…something they’re never likely to get! This constant pursuit of the perfect body, this battle with body image is leading to eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorders in order to meet some ideal!

Desperate measures

Some people become so immersed in the acquisition of a perfect physique that their lives revolve around it. The complex can be so intense that people end marriages, make major life changes, and leave jobs that they have worked incredibly hard for so that they can spend more time lifting weights! The Adonis Complex is a very serious condition which deserves expert input and advice.

Worried you might have the Adonis Complex?

Should you feel you might have, or may be at risk of such a condition then do not hesitate to speak to your Doctor, they can put you in touch with the right people.


Pope, H, G., Phillips, K, A., Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession. NY: Free Press


About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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