When you look in the mirror, do you truly see your reflection, or do you see a pre-conceived image of yourself staring back?
We all have things that we don’t like about ourselves, whether it’s our weight, our height, a slightly bent nose – whatever! Whilst we may worry about these things from time to time, they don’t particularly interfere with our lives. If, however, you suffer from body dysmorphia - an anxiety-based disorder - you will only ever see a distorted image of your own body and obsess about things which, in reality, do not exist or are insignificant.
If you suffer from this condition, these concerns can become all-consuming. Despite the reassurances of friends, family and partners, you will nonetheless believe that your warped image of your body is reality.
Spotting the signs…
Body dysmorphia is a psychologically-damaging condition. It is characterised by a severe lack of confidence, primarily due to a belief that others perceive you in the same, negative way that you perceive yourself. Over time, this can develop into depression and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.
The condition is not easily recognisable, and it is believed that a large number of cases go undiagnosed. If you have an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, you are more likely to suffer from body dysmorphia. The same applies if you are predisposed to depressive illness and OCD tendencies. Not surprisingly, it can have a big impact on your everyday life and your ability to form meaningful relationships with others.
If you suffer from body dysmorphia, you may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Social anxiety
- Emotional distress
- Low self-esteem
- Self-imposed isolation
- A tendency to obsess about particular parts of the body
- Regular dieting
- Excessive exercise
- Episodes of depression
- Continual efforts to rectify the perceived ‘flaw’ through camouflaging, or even surgery
- Constantly looking in, or avoiding, mirrors
The exact cause of body dysmorphia is not known. One school of thought suggests that it may be genetic. It is commonly believed, however, that earlier life experiences may play a large part in the development of the condition. For example, if you have been bullied throughout your childhood for being overweight, you may continue to see yourself as ‘too fat’ into adulthood, even if you are not.
If you think you may be suffering from body dysmorphia, don’t keep it to yourself. This is a common problem with the condition. Do not be afraid that others may view your obsession as vanity if you reveal your feelings to them. There is lots of help and support available – all you have to do is take the first step.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one option. This treatment effectively involves restructuring and reframing thought processes and behaviour patterns in order to see and approach problems in a different way and so deal with them more constructively and effectively. Alternatively, a course of antidepressants may be prescribed to help curb the obsessive behaviour.
Whatever route you decide to take, just make sure you start your journey on the road to recovery.
You are amazing – you need to recognise that.