Home » Why Body Dysmorphia is more than just feeling ugly

Why Body Dysmorphia is more than just feeling ugly

How often do you deliberately check your features? The questionnaire says, highlighting deliberately very clearly. My cursor flicked between 5 and 10 times a day. Eventually settling on up to 40 times a day, releasing that when I look in shop windows, car doors, computer screens or the mirrored blue roll holder at work, that I’m deliberately checking…Just to see. 

Just to see what though? 

Having a dysmorphic viewpoint is very distorting and isn’t a simple extension of low self-esteem. (Thorpe, J. (2016). 7 Signs That Somebody Has Body Dysmorphia.) It roots in clinical anxiety and shares traits seen in those with OCD. People with body dysmorphia can suffer extreme distress at the hands of a perceived flaw.

While it’s easy for me to tell you about the disorder, living with it is the complete opposite. What I’m about to tell you is personal experience and I understand body dysmorphia can show itself differently in people. So why is body dysmorphia more than just feeling ugly? 

The behaviours that occur as a result of BDD is a clear sign as to why it’s much more serious than feeling ugly. One of the most obvious “rituals’ ‘ or habits of body dysmorphics is obsessive attention to appearance, usually focused on the perceived flaw. (Thorpe, J. (2016). 7 Signs That Somebody Has Body Dysmorphia.) 

Some of my behaviours:

  • I only use / trust certain mirrors that match the image in my head. My therapist asked me to look in the mirror in her practice room, one I had never used. It was one of the hardest things I’d done. I was terrified of coming face to face with my own face. 
  • I obsessively need to check my appearance in abstract reflections as well as photos. You might expect body dysmorphics to be avoidant of mirrors and photos, but some people, like me, are the opposite. This way I can monitor my face. 
  • I keep every single photo of myself. 99% of the time I hate them.
  • This leads into my most stubborn habit – zooming. Any free time I have, or when I see pictures after social activities, I spend it zooming in on my face and analysing what I look like and comparing it to other people and past photos of myself. This habit can cause me a lot of distress despite thinking it’s helpful for me. When really I’m just playing into my disorder by needing to check, monitor and obsess about what I look like. Some of the ways I’ve described what I see include, “I look like a demon” and “I look like a boy.” 
  • I have an image in my head of what I look like and a lot of the time photos, natural lighting and unfamiliar mirrors don’t match the image and it’s a trigger for me.
  • I’m not a good listener. I spend the majority of conversations imagining what I might look like to the other person. 
Why do these behaviours happen (for me)?

I’m extremely confused. I describe my disorder as there being two versions of myself and not knowing which is real. Through the years, the idea that there’s a deformity with my face has been reinforced by photographs, videos, people’s words, and catching my reflection leading me to believe that I don’t have a disorder and it’s purely physical – I’m just deformed and need to accept it. 

The bottom line is that BDD is more than feeling ugly because of the emotional stress and obsession that comes with it. There are many other symptoms that don’t affect me, but are very real to others. Some can’t leave the house, are avoidant of social activities or seek out cosmetic surgery (which I have) in hope that it’ll fix the deformity. Because this is a mental disorder, often the surgery doesn’t fix anything. The real flaw is the mental perception, not the physical being. 

If you are worried or concerned, please contact a doctor or the website linked below. This article is not a resource for self-diagnosis. It is purely personal. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation – https://bddfoundation.org

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