People With An 'Adonis Complex' Suffer From 7 Self-Destructive Traits

No matter how big your muscles get, it will never be enough.

man with muscles looking in the mirror Pressmaster / Shutterstock

With so many people learning more about who they are, a number of "complex" conditions and syndromes have been identified and people who exhibit the "symptoms" labeled. There are those who think they are immune to the dangers of the world, people who are pretty sure they are superior to everyone else, and those who think it’s their job to save the world.

Then, there are individuals who display less confident attributes like an inferiority complex, those who believe they are solely responsible for everything that goes wrong, and people who believe they are an innocent Cinderella waiting for Prince Charming to fix their woes.


But the Adonis complex is an alarming crisis of male body obsession that is rarely discussed.

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What is an Adonis complex?

An Adonis complex is a psychological condition that can cause boys and men to develop body image problems and obsess over achieving physical perfection. It can result in steroid abuse, eating disorders, excessive muscle building, and even influence them to get unnecessary cosmetic surgery.


“Adonis” was a God from Greek mythology, depicted as the epitome of masculine beauty. He was supposed to have the most exceptional male physique, something for other men to marvel at and strive for. According to legend, he was so perfect that he got the love and attention of the queen of all gods, Aphrodite.

Striking men of all ages, the Adonis complex is an unhealthy obsession with the male body image that can manifest as manageable dissatisfaction, or turn into something as serious as anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, or bulimia. It can also result in low self-esteem, mental health issues, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Termed "muscle dysmorphia," authors of “The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crises of Male Body Obsession” — Harrison Pope, Katharine A. Phillips, and Roberto Olivardia — the condition can easily cause anyone afflicted to spiral downhill, dramatically impacting every aspect of their life. No matter how the world sees them, people with the complex can, in their opinion, never be enough.

What causes someone to have an Adonis complex?

The Adonis complex is typically driven by the pressures society places on men to be the picture of perfection, the influence of media, and the overwhelming desire to be socially validated. It proves that men, like women, have been targeted aggressively in creating doubt and insecurity about their bodies.


Over the past couple of decades, the American Society of Plastic Surgery has said that cosmetic procedures on men has increased by over 28% and the three top categories are facial surgery, male breast reduction, and liposuction. Wanting to keep pace with the most fit men, many are willing to do whatever it takes to have a flawless body.

It is believed that a big percentage of those men who are "fitness-minded" are afflicted with Adonis complex. They receive unrealistic messages telling them that "bigger is better" when it comes to muscle mass.

But no matter how much body fat they cut and muscle they build, they will never be satisfied with their image and might even see themselves as physically inadequate.

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7 Signs You Have An Adonis Complex

1. You're hyper-focused on your physical experience.

People with an Adonis complex see every perceived flaw possible on their bodies. They are obsessed with their muscle mass, body fat percentage, and rather than seeing their desirable physical traits, are hyper-focused on "blemishes."

2. You have compulsive exercise routines.

Regular exercise is good for you, but being compulsive about your exercise routine, not so much. Life is all about balance. There should be a time when you are simply being present and enjoying life.

If most of your free time is consumed with exercise, you might have an Adonis complex.

3. You adhere to restrictive dieting.

Worrying about what to eat and when to eat constantly is enough to drive you insane. Eating what you want in moderation and sticking to a balanced diet is important in maintaining optimal health.


But you should not be thinking about your diet around the clock and worrying about how every bite or sip you consume will show up on your body.

4. You use steroids or other performance-enhancing substances.

Adding steroids or substances that increase performance can be a natural progression for a man obsessed with body image. This can result in problems like hair loss, cysts, abscesses, yellow skin or eyes, liver damage, brain damage, and others.

Because people with an Adonis complex are not thinking realistically, they don’t realize that the risk is not worth the reward.

5. You have body dysmorphia.

An unhealthy obsession with your body can lead you to find problems that really don’t exist. Your mind makes you believe you are lacking in areas you are not.


You constantly compare yourself with others, have a negative self-image, and suffer from emotional and psychological distress due to your perceived inability to be good enough.

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6. You tend to withdraw socially.

An Adonis complex is a double-edged sword because on one hand, you want the world to admire your physique, but on the other hand, you never feel you have reached a satisfactory level of physical attractiveness and can withdraw socially.

People with an Adonis complex tend to isolate themselves while they strive for perfection in private.

7. You hold a negative self-image.

The key component of the Adonis complex is the inability to see yourself as "good enough." No matter how hard you work or how coveted your body is, you will always have a negative self-image.


By definition, this complex gives you the inability to see what is really there when it comes to your size, shape, and physical condition.

How to Deal with an Adonis Complex

The first step in dealing with the condition is recognizing you have it. Once you’ve conceded that you might suffer from muscle dysmorphia, a licensed professional can help with cognitive-behavioral techniques to direct your thinking to more reasonable and attainable fitness goals.

You may have heard the saying "It’s me vs. me" somewhere before. What that means is you are not here to compete with others, but to simply be a better "you" than you were yesterday. Understanding that everyone’s body composition and lifestyle is different can help you to develop a plan that works for you and prevent unfair comparisons to others.


If you are a personal trainer who deals with clients, the best thing you can do for them is recognize the signs of an Adonis complex and develop a list of treatment and referral options should the need arise.

The good news is that having an Adonis complex doesn’t mean it has to be a permanent condition.

If you are struggling with body dysmorphia or have resorted to steroid or performance-enhancing drugs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can help.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, who specializes in content about self-care, self-love, self-enlightenment, interpersonal relationships, and personalities. She strives to deliver informative and entertaining content you can use to help navigate life.