Written by Carm Bozzo (@upandlifting) & Photo by Arsenik Studios
The first time I ever heard the words “body dysmorphia” it was on a shopping trip with my sister-in-law – and she was referring to me. We were in the car and I, of course, was complaining about my body. I wanted to look like I trained – because I did – a lot.
“You know what you have, right?” she asked me. “You have body dysmorphia.” Then she explained what it was. I knew immediately that she was probably right.
“Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.”
Does this sound like YOU? Are you:
- Avoiding mirrors
- Constantly checking yourself in the mirror
- Trying to hide your body part under a hat, scarf, or makeup.
- Constantly exercising or grooming.
- Constantly comparing yourself with others.
- Always asking other people whether you look OK.
It is said that what triggers body dysmorphia is “going through traumatic experiences such as abuse or bullying which can cause you to develop a negative self-image, which can lead you to have obsessions about your appearance.”
Although I would not describe any of my own life experiences as bullying, I have – like many of you reading this – experienced a traumatic personal event. However, it was through university and all the way into my 40s where the body dysmorphia really came into play. After gaining the freshman 15 (and being 5 feet tall, 15lbs is more like 30), my life really changed. I began 20 plus years of a multitude of dieting, excessive cardio and never feeling like I looked good enough. I can say now that I have been dieting for all of my adult life.
It is one thing to be aware of your appearance and take extra care of it, but when it takes over your thoughts and actions – see the above list – AND you find it hard to be happy with your body – at any time and at any cost, there may be something more.
For some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can be a starting point of healing but I think admitting that you have this disorder is a HUGE first big step. It was for me. Talking to any supportive friend or family member is such a big help as they can listen but also guide you out of that negative self-talk or behaviours in a loving way.
Also, sometimes it helps to get involved in other types of self-care that is not centered on your body or looks. Some of these may include:
- Daily walks– vitamin D is so powerful to our everyday happiness
- Exercising for strength NOT weight loss.
- Prioritizing sleep
- Starting a gratitude journal
- Stopping the daily weigh-ins
- Working with a mental health practitioner and/or mindset coach
- Becoming intentional with your own self-care and self-love
I had to work on my own mindset shift and started to separate my own self-worth with what my body looked like. It takes time and sometimes, still proves to be a struggle. The best thing I did was start working out with INTENTION – getting stronger meant way more than the scale weight. I started listening to podcasts and surrounding myself with positive words and stories. It has been a pivotal two years but I still have a way to go.
Some may think that body dysmorphia is a superficial disorder because it deals with a person’s perceived appearance and body image. Some people don’t take that seriously. However, it can be a real obstacle to feeling good in your skin. If you think you are suffering from BDD, try the above methods and talk to someone who can support your effort to heal.
Note: if your body dysmorphia is all-consuming and has you thinking about multiple cosmetic procedures, it is best to seek a health care professional proficient in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or work with your own health care practitioner for support.