When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see? Sure, most of us would like to change a few things about our bodies. Lots of people would like to be taller, slimmer or be more toned; the list goes on and on. But where most people can cope with what they see looking back at them, others really can’t. And they see it a hundred times worse than it actually is. Why?
Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder. Sufferers have symptoms of an actual medical condition. However, the effects can’t be explained by an actual physical illness. It’s primarily a nervous disorder, where someone has a distorted perception of how they look. They may even imagine defects that just aren’t there. Typically, a person with BDD may spend a lot of time worrying about how they look. Convinced they are hideous and ugly, the sufferer doesn’t have a realistic view of what they see in the looking glass.
Image via Flickr
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder can vary, but often include
- Anxiety and depression
- Feeling guilty, or ashamed
- eating disorders
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Avoidance - Many sufferers try to avoid other people or social occasions
- Avoiding having photographs taken
- Self harming and suicidal thoughts
When suffering from Body Dysmorphia Disorder, it can seem impossible to reach out for help. Many sufferers feel that their requests may be met with ridicule or just not taken seriously. It can take years for them to ask for help. Fearing being judged, they tend to suffer in silence for years while their symptoms worsen over time. It’s a painful, challenging and lonely condition to have, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Mental health issues still all too often hold stigma in many places. Just because you can’t “see” an illness, does not mean it isn’t there. Attitudes are improving, but there’s still an awful long way to go! Most people know someone who’s suffered from depression or anxiety. There’s no need for these subjects to be a taboo in this day in age.
Treatment for BDD can vary. Sometimes counselling will be enough to help someone overcome their negative body image. Medication in the form of antidepressants can be invaluable. Sometimes, only by changing the body will the sufferer be able to obtain any real relief. Breast augmentation, liposuction and nose jobs are all common procedures sought by those with BDD.
There are also self-help groups available to help deal with the effects of the disorder. The internet can be a dangerous place for sufferers of image disorders. Full of unrealistic photoshopped images, they’re intimidating for most of us mere mortals. But there are also forums where people with BDD can offer each other encouragement and support.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder can be defeated, but it’s almost impossible to do it alone. If this sounds like you or someone you know, do seek help as soon as possible. Do not feel shame or fear being judged. The condition is far more common than you may realise.