Trigger warning: This post is about Body Dysmorphia which is a psychological issue that relates to a lot of eating disorders. If you are uncomfortable with this topic please read no farther. If you think that someone you know and love or if you yourself are experiencing signs of this or any other eating disorder please reach out to a doctor that specializes in these and other obsessive-compulsive disorders. The Author of this blog is speaking from personal experience and is not to be taken as medical advice.
What is Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a distinct mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see. BDD shares some features with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder
I personally never got help with my problems with body image…or ocd…actually the only thing I ever really got therapy for was when I was a teenager and had a bit of a substance abuse problem. But there is the word there: PROBLEM. Being OCD was never considered a problem in my house, primarily because my father is Obsessive Compulsive. I didn’t even realize it or that I had picked up those traits until I went to college. Shoes under the table were not permitted, beds were to be made always, vacuuming had to be done twice a day. Another thing that I didn’t realize is how unacceptable it is to talk about peoples bodies. My father up to this day, talks about my mother’s body in a way that makes me uncomfortable. And to be honest, he talked about mine too. There was never anything wrong with telling someone they should really lay off or did they need dessert. Sadly there still isn’t. Now I just recognize it.
There were days when we were living in Germany when I was 13 that my friend and I would go and buy laxative and diet pills. Nothing was ever good enough. My nose was too big for anyone to love me. I was never going to be skinny like my friends. Why didn’t I look like them? I don’t think that I ever got over these thoughts and from time to time (Sometimes more often then I would like to admit) I still have these thoughts. I still try to pose so you can’t see my nose or my arms.
I don’t think I realized how bad it was until my marriage started falling apart and I started thinking “If only I was a bit skinnier.” “If only I was prettier.” “He likes short hair so it must be my hair.” I realize now how stupid those things are but my automatic reaction, in the moment, was to look at those imaginary or over exaggerated flaws and pull myself apart over them. I should make it clear that this was ALL in my head and my ex for all his flaws never said anything bad about my body ever. When I told my best friend that my thing was my nose and how much I hated it she . said that she had honestly never even noticed my nose (Which is the point. Only I notice that)
It’s something that is very close to me and honestly, hard to share. I have been debating making a video vlog with some of these topics but I don’t have a good relationship with the camera or mirrors. I wouldn’t say I have an eating disorder persay…at least not anymore, but I do pay attention to how fad diets are affecting me when my mother wants to do one or if I am running for pleasure or running to punish myself.
Signs of Body Dysmorphia
Here are some signs that you or a friend might be experiencing body dysmorphia. No need to check yourself in unless you feel like you should but things are always better and you will have a faster time healing from them if you know what you are looking for. Remember that to the person that is experiencing body Dysmorphia, their flaws are REAL to them even if you cant see them.
- They can not be reassured about a particular issue: This is not them trying to be difficult. This is a legitimate thing that they feel and see.
- Their thoughts about their body are invasive and distressing: The key word here is invasive. Because BBD is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, the mind can not shift out of this negative look and will cause anxiety and affect other parts of their life.
- Their relationship with Mirrors is complex: This can go one of two ways. One: they can be like me and avoid mirrors altogether. Two: they can be constantly checking on their “Defect” and trying to hide it with clothing, makeup, etc.
- They have obsessive rituals around their appearance: and more specifically, around their perceived defect. It is meant to give them temporary relief. But it is only tempory.
- Isolation from social situations for fear of judgment: It’s easy to see how this could happen; its a way to hide their flaw from friends and family. Even when they do go out they are too focused on their flaw to enjoy themselves. While others see this as shallow and others might tell them to get over it, statements like this can often lead to future isolation for fear of ridicule.
What Can You Do?
There is no FDA approved drug for BBD. Group and family therapy with long-term support groups is promising like it is for those with OCD or Eating disorders. However, I have Learned a few tricks.
First step is always to recognize your own behavior. Knowing may not be half the battle in this case but it seriously helps. As I stated before, even though my mother is often trying fad diets, I refuse to take part in them because my OCD will have me beating myself up if I have a sip of wine or a bite of cheese on the Whole 30.
I also find it helpful to be very concious of my social media consumption. I do not follow “The Pretty People” just for being pretty. I fill my feed with positive, up lifting people and mantras.
Force yourself to look at yourself in the mirror and try and see whats really there. I still see a big nose or some arm flab. Its going to happen. But I also see a pair of stunning green eyes, amazing hair and a bright smile.
Find supportive people around you. This is just the key in life isn’t it? People need to know whats going on with you to help you. Share these sorts of things with close friend and family and try to explain that this isn’t just you being vien. Its not a small problem. This is a real, serious and diagnosable thing that affects people (Both men and women) all over the world.