Kim Kardashian, Billie Eilish and Lili Reinhart are all celebrities who have spoken out about their experiences with negative body image – and body dysmorphia – in the past. While you’ve likely heard of the term, this anxiety disorder is frequently misunderstood. It’s more than just vanity or narcissism.
Most of us have things we don’t like about our appearance; however someone with body dysmorphia may think about their perceived flaws to an obsessive level, which can become extremely debilitating, affecting happiness and mental health.
Research shows that body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) affects men and women almost equally, according to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, despite it being the perception only young women suffer with body image issues.
But like with any mental health issue, help is available for those with body dysmorphia. So how can you spot the signs? Keep reading…
1. You have invasive thoughts about how you look
Being self-conscious about your appearance is one thing, but obsessing over how you look every waking moment is another. Someone with body dysmorphia may frequently worry about a specific part of their body, even when the flaw cannot be seen by other people, and won’t be able to escape these negative, all-consuming thoughts.
2. You have obsessive habits around your appearance
Compulsive behaviours, such as repeatedly checking mirrors (or avoiding them altogether), comparing their appearance with others, obsessively picking at their skin, or continually touching the body part that worries them, are just some of the habits people with body dysmorphia may have. As the mind can’t move on from this obsessive thinking, which has a significant impact on daily life, body dysmorphia is closely linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Obsessively checking your reflection for your perceived flaws is a symptom of BDD / Unsplash
3. You avoid social situations for fear of being judged
While it varies person to person, many will find it hard to go out in public or socialise with others, so as not to draw attention to their “imperfections”. As a result this can have a huge effect on work life and relationships.
4. You go to great lengths to “fix” your flaws
Those with body dysmorphia will often hide or camouflage the features that cause them anxiety. They may become fixated on the latest diet and fitness trends, or spend a huge amount of time and money trying new products to “fix” the issue. Many of those experiencing the disorder may also go one step further and get cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance.
5. You can’t be reassured by others
A huge part of body dysmorphia is that you can’t be made to look at it in a rational way. The anxiety that builds up overtime over the flaw, real or imagined, makes it difficult to believe loved ones when they offer reassurance.
Those with BDD see flaws in themselves that others don’t / Unsplash
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms of body dysmorphia, you can talk to your GP about treatment options.
Main image: Unsplash