Have you heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
I didn’t really think much about the way I looked as I grew up – my appearance wasn’t a priority for me; I was a kid. Come high school, things started to go downhill for me with under-the-skin, creeping, consistent bullying. Children can be so cruel and you know what they say: if someone tells you something often enough, you start to believe it.
I left school with crippling anxiety and a huge complex about the way I looked which has lasted from my teens, into my now late-twenties (yay for trauma!). I’ve always been a high-functioning anxious person, able to complete tasks and excel at daily life, so my issues are not immediately obvious to those who meet me. Most of my struggle happens behind closed doors, literally: in my own head.
Focusing on Fixation
Not many people know about my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) except a select few, and even then I do my best to minimise the daily struggle I face on a daily basis. My husband witnesses and deals with most of my meltdowns and is a huge, huge support to me. Without him around, I tend to isolate myself into a hole, turning my phone off and constantly mirror checking, in between bouts of crying.
“Whichever part I focus on will seem absolutely huge or disgusting and ugly and I will do anything I can to hide it.”
What tends to happen is I fixate on a certain part of my body. Whichever part I focus on will seem absolutely huge or disgusting and ugly and I will do anything I can to hide it. Whether that’s with makeup, my hair or my hands. Or in some cases, I’m sorry to say – surgery or augmentation. Once that part is ‘fixed’, I find something else to focus on. And so the cycle continues. It honestly doesn’t matter how many people tell me I’m pretty, or look fine: I can’t hear them. It’s a war within myself.
It’s easy to see why some people may think people with body dysmorphia are narcissistic or vain. Everyone has bouts of self-doubt, standing in front of the mirror and worrying about their body image, or even admiring themselves. But body dysmorphic disorder is not either of those things – it’s despising your body.
Recently, I found out that BDD is categorised as an obsessive-compulsive related disorder, which means that the symptoms are similar to, but not exactly the same as, symptoms found in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It blew my mind. My bad thoughts are almost constant. Even if I’m having a great time, having a conversation with someone I love, there will be another conversation in my head on what seems like a loop.
I understand that the way I look is not my worth. Rationally, I know that most people won’t notice or even remotely care about the bit of my body or face I’m focused on that day. But, like any other diagnosed disorder, I can’t seem to stop the overwhelming and cruel thoughts about myself.
Taking Steps To Wellness
Medication makes me numb, group talks make me clam up. I am now actively trying to save myself from myself by practising kind self-talk and listening to things that inspire me to get better and show me that I’m not alone, such as Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast.
It’s been really hard for me to write this article – I’ve been taking little breaks from it to breathe and cry. However, it’s actually kind of a relief to get it down in written form. My goal is to be in love, not in hate with myself. Honestly, I can’t picture a time in the future when I won’t be always trying to ‘fix’ myself, yet – but that’s okay. Good things take time.
Click here to see How to Develop Self love and Confidence
If you’re struggling, please tell someone you love and make an appointment with your GP. Alternatively, talk it out: contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 (free from any phone).