Self-Esteem Gone Rogue: We Need To Talk About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

We all have issues with our body image.

It is arguably a sad reflection on society that the above statement is almost blanket-truth. Some of us may feel those issues more strikingly than others, but the core point remains: we are not happy with the way we look.
To an extent, it’s not even a surprise that surveys consistently throw statistics out showing how unhappy we are. We live in a world rife with airbrushing, with even music videos tampered with to give the star a more svelte frame. We are presented with unrealistic versions of beauty, the likes of which no normal woman could be expected to manage without ten different stylists on hand at all times. In the face of such challenges, is it any wonder that our perception of body image is plunging towards an all-time low?

While the above may sound familiar and somewhat shocking, for some people reading, it won’t be shocking. It will just be normal because this is all they have ever known. Yes, these people – potentially you – will find their self-image damaged due to the things I have mentioned, but it’s only damaged further. It was already damaged, to begin with.

Sound a little too familiar? Then it’s time to learn more about a curious mental health problem called Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

What Is It?

The DSM-5 (the bible of psychiatry) lists Body Dysmorphic Disorder – from hereon referred to as BDD – among obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorders. The primary characteristics are –

  • A preoccupation with physical appearance. You may think, in the age of the selfie, that we all have this problem. For people with BDD however, it’s a total, constant focus.
  • A belief that you have a defect or abnormality in your body that makes you ugly – even if, by normal standards, it is entirely normal.
  • Either frequently looking in mirrors or avoiding mirrors altogether.
  • Constant comparisons with the way you look compared to others
  • All of the above cause extreme anxiety or depression. These are not thoughts you can shrug off and go about your day; they become a sole focus.

Why Is It A Problem?

Like any mental health condition, BDD can wreak havoc on lives. It may make you avoid social situations for fear of judgment or have self-esteem issues, so severe your career is impacted.

What To Do?

First, seek help from a professional –  talking therapies can make a big difference.

It’s worth addressing any concerns you have about your body to see if that helps. Some sufferers of BDD have surgery, lose weight or make lifestyle changes and find that it eases the symptoms of the BDD. If you have a sole body area you’re preoccupied with rather than a general concern, then it might be worth a visit to a reputable aesthetic clinic to seek further guidance.

For others, they find no relief from fixing the first problem – instead, they just focus on a new perceived flaw. Talking therapies become more important in these cases – try and find someone with a background in BDD so that you can get specialist assistance.

Ally Gonzales is the creator of RunningSoleGirl. The go-to place for everything healthy lifestyle and conditioning for running. She’s a runner, speaks a total of five languages, and is a soon-to-be college freshman majoring in Exercise and Sports Science.
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