Today, I want to talk about a serious topic in our society: Body Dysmorphic Disorder. First, let’s start by really understanding what body dysmorphia is. It’s defined as, “a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance.”
Sometimes, the flaw can be minor, or even just imagined, but it can still cause someone to become fully obsessed with fixing it, thinking about it, and avoiding social situations and photos to hide it. I think it’s become even more of an issue in today’s society, where we see seemingly perfect people on social media, and online, and it makes us focus, and potentially obsess over, our own insecurities.
A huge symptom of BDD is repetitive compulsive behaviors. These are actions such as excessive tanning, shopping, and exercising or seeking cosmetic surgery. On their own, these behaviors may not pose a problem, but two or more together could be signs of body dysmorphia. There are many causes of BDD. Peer pressure, social media, and beauty standards are some of the biggest causes. Prevention is also very important. BDD can take over a person because they believe they are ugly and abnormal, or do not live up to societal standards of beauty. So, gaining self confidence is the best way to prevent body dysmorphia.
Although a large percentage of people don’t suffer from BDD, feeling body dysmorphia in general is very common in our society. Especially living in a time where social media dominates much of our daily lives, seeing beauty standards that seem impossible to achieve has the ability to make you feel really negative about yourself. It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it is something you should definitely reach out to someone about.
BDD is incredibly hard to go through on your own. In the long term, BDD can cause co-occurring disorders such as depression and eating disorders. It can also cause negative social impacts such as poor performance in school or work and loss of relationships. If you think you have body dysmorphic disorder, here are a few steps you should take immediately.
First, talk to a close friend or family member, and when comfortable, reach out to a mental health professional. There are treatments that can help, but you can’t do it alone.
You can also work on improving your body dysmorphia without seeking professional help.
Here are some ways:
- Practice reduction strategies: as in removing excessive mirrors from your house, limiting social media screen time
- Practice daily routines: develop a healthy sleep schedule, and a comfortable exercise routine
- Take risks everyday: try to wear something in your closet that takes you out of your comfort zone, or try to show off something you normally hide. If you feel uncomfortable without makeup, maybe facetime a friend bare-faced, and see how you feel.
If you think that a friend or family member has BDD, this is how to help:
- First, be sure that they have symptoms of body dysmorphia. An easy one to spot is when hanging out with them. If they constantly talk about a certain body part they hate and it always seems to take over the conversation, they may have BDD.
- Work on steering conversations away from their appearance and try not to talk about your own insecurities. This can end up in a more negative conversation and won’t make the person feel like someone relates to them.
- Don’t mock your friend or family member, even if you think it’s a joke. They most likely won’t feel the same way and may clam up later when you bring up the same issues.
- Encourage them to get help and talk to a therapist or psychotherapist.
For people struggling with BDD, a lot of the negative feelings and obsessions come from someone’s individual mindset about their flaws. As we talked about earlier, BDD deals with obsessing over a flaw, or going the extra mile to make sure that that flaw is fixed. The main goal of the treatment for BDD is to change the way a person sees themself, and put them on a journey to self-love. This is much easier said than done, though. For many people who do struggle with BDD, it often becomes the main focal point, or obsession, in their life. Some ways to not let BDD derail your life are: writing down the parts of your body you feel thankful for, coming up with a plan of action when you begin to put yourself down to distract yourself, or stop yourself, and maybe taking a break from social media – if that’s a potential cause – to stop comparing yourself to other people or unrealistic beauty standards.
Regaining self confidence is hard, even if you don’t have BDD. It’s important to find someone you can talk to, especially because your flaws aren’t flaws at all. Hopefully this article gave you some insight into causes, symptoms, and treatments of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and ways to achieve self-confidence in spite of it!