body dysmorphiaBody Dysmorphic Disorder is a type of mental illness, where the affected person is exclusively concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of his or her physical features. Common symptoms are obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors related to perceived appearance defect, depression, delusional thoughts, social withdrawal and isolation, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of shame, dependency on others, inability to work due to the preoccupation with appearance and substance abuse. There are also compulsive behaviors associated with the disorder, such as compulsive mirror checking, attempting to camouflage the imagined defect, excessive grooming behaviors, becoming hostile toward people for no reason, excessive dieting or exercise, self-harm, comparing appearance/body parts with that/those of others, compulsive information-seeking and obsession with plastic surgery or other procedures, often with little satisfactory results (in the patient’s perception). In extreme cases, people have attempted to perform plastic surgery on themselves, including liposuction and various implants with disastrous results. It’s a real disorder (Michael Jackson was thought to have Body Dysmorphia, as well as many other high-profile people) and it is all-consuming. While visiting a great body image site called We Are The Real Deal, I found an article in which a woman by the name of Laura told of her story with the disease. It’s really interesting and informative:

As someone who used to be overweight, I can truly say that no matter how much weight I have lost and no matter what the number says on the tag of that new dress I bought, it will never be good enough. By the way, I’m a size four. I say that like it’s something I should be proud of. Honestly, I don’t know the difference most days. Body dysmorphia is something I’ve dealt with my whole life. It’s something I dealt with before I even knew there was a term for it. I was always overweight as a child. It seemed like overnight I went from being a 90 pound kid to 130 pounds. I didn’t stay at 130 very long and by the time I was in high school I was in the 150 territory. To most people, 150 pounds isn’t fat, but I was a 16 year-old living in South Florida at the time and in my mind, I was huge. I was the chubby, shy girl with a cute face. If I could have exchanged the cute face for a size 2 skirt I probably would have. No. I know I would have. I survived high school, though. I moved on to college and then dealt with a whole new world of body obsession. You know how you see those kids who can eat all day and night, never exercise and not gain a single ounce of weight? I was never that kid. I did, however, enjoy eating like I was that kid. I got up to around 180 pounds at my heaviest and the only reason I knew that was because I had to visit the doctor. I didn’t actually own a scale. I was unhappy. I was unhappy with the number and  I was unhappy with the clothes I owned and the way they fit. I was mostly unhappy with myself. I didn’t like myself and it didn’t matter how nice or smart I was. I didn’t like my body and that controlled my life. One day, I decided I was going to buy a scale (which is a whole other obsession entirely). I had started working out a lot and was determine to lose weight. I worked out every single day for at least an hour. Even if I wasn’t feeling well or needed to study I would make myself exercise. I was that determined. I tried diets and cut certain foods, too. I did whatever I could to make sure I lost the weight. In my mind, if I could get down to 130 pounds I would be happy. I got down to 130 pounds. I was not happy. I told myself if I could get down to 125 pounds I would be happy. I got down to 125 pounds. I was not happy. At my lowest weight of 115 pounds, I was still not happy. All I saw when I looked at my 115 pound body was flaws. When I looked in the mirror, I saw no change. Yes, my face looked a little smaller and I had to wear much smaller clothes but my body looked about the same to me. It was infuriating! And it only got worse when people would tell me I was losing too much weight and needed to stop or that I needed to put on a few pounds. Why couldn’t they see what I saw? Or better yet, why couldn’t I see what they saw? Nothing was good enough. Nothing! The sad truth is, I will probably always see flaws. I will probably always analyze and criticize myself too harshly. The thing that I learned is that as exhausting as it is to deal with body dysmorphia, I am at a point in my life where I acknowledge that when I get down on myself I can tell myself that what I’m seeing isn’t reality. Even though I think I might look huge in a certain outfit, I know it’s not reality. Does it make me feel better? Sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sadly, that’s just the way it is. I have a long way to go before I can ever fully accept the way my body looks. The only thing I can say for myself, in terms of my own personal journey, is that it is getting better. I’m not quite there, but maybe one day.

  If you or someone you know is suffering from Body Dysmorphia, there are treatment options and ways to cope with it. Click here to learn more!