Have you ever looked in the mirror and not really recognized the person staring back at you? You’re very much aware that it’s you and your reflection, but you feel like you look different.
Years ago, you could eat or drink anything without it sticking to your body, but now it feels like nothing you do can make you look toned and attractive like you once were. You’ve been working hard on yourself. You’re fine-tuning your nutrition, and your workouts have felt really good. Your friends and family are starting to notice. They’re complimenting you and making remarks about the changes they’ve seen. The scale is moving, and your clothes are fitting differently, but for some reason, you cannot see any of the changes. You still feel like you look the same as when you first started.
The inability to see yourself in a positive light could be the result of body dysmorphia.
What is Body Dysmorphia?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is one of the most severe cases of distorted body image. A distorted body image is usually to blame whenever someone doesn’t have an accurate view of themselves. Body dysmorphia is a disorder where an individual will have an excessive and persistent fixation over perceived flaws in their own appearance that typically go unnoticed by others, even their loved ones like family and friends.
Similar to other conditions and disorders, there isn’t one singular cause of body dysmorphia. Several factors can play a role in someone developing signs and symptoms of body dysmorphia.
Here are a few of the potential causes or triggers of body dysmorphia:
- Family history
- Pressure from society
- Unrealistic beauty standards
The Signs and Symptoms
You may start noticing someone struggling with body dysmorphia due to how they talk about themselves. For example, they may choose words like ugly, gross, or disgusting to describe themselves. They also may choose these words to describe parts of their body they’re not happy with.
These are the most common areas of the body that someone with body dysmorphia usually fixates on:
Individuals with body dysmorphia usually go to extreme lengths to change something in their appearance that they see as a flaw. Someone suffering from body dysmorphia will spend a lot of their time and energy obsessing over their perceived flaws, finding ways to hide or fix them, and hoping that no one will be able to notice them.
These are some of the most common symptoms of body dysmorphia:
- Avoiding mirrors or having their photo taken
- Body checks
- Change in diet or exercise routine
- Constant comparison to others
- Excessive shopping
- Financial issues
- Hiding areas of the body with makeup, clothing, or objects like blankets or pillows
- Increased time spent on grooming and hygiene
- Medical appointments, procedures, surgeries, and expenses
- Obsessive thoughts about their appearance and body
- Problems with school, home life, or relationships due to fixation on body image
- Skin picking
- Seeking reassurance, validation, and approval
- Withdrawing from social events
Body dysmorphia is treatable. Treatment options usually include therapy, coaching, medication, or a combination. Cognitive Behavioral based work or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are the most common for body dysmorphia. The goal of CBT is to change the negative thinking patterns that a patient may have regarding their appearance. ERP therapy gradually exposes the patient to some of their fears to overcome them moving forward.
If you or someone you love is struggling with body dysmorphia, it’s important to reach out for help and support.
Kamini Wood, a certified professional coach, helps people take the courageous steps to identify their limiting beliefs, the reasons for their stagnation or feelings of not enoughness, so they can have what they want professionally and personally to live a fulfilled life.
She is the creator of AuthenticMe® and CEO of Live Joy Your Way, a coaching company helping high performers and overachievers who have seen success through old-rooted, traditional metrics, reestablish their relational self-awareness. Her best-selling book is Om: Life’s Gentle Reminders – for more information visit www.kaminiwood.com.