What is body dysmorphia? It is a hidden illness affecting many in the modern world. Most of us have something that we don’t like about our appearance. However usually, people accept these perceived ‘flaws’ and move on with their daily lives, but people who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) become fixated on that specific imperfection. Body dysmorphia symptoms like thinking about their ‘flaws’ for hours each day can exhaust one mentally and physically.
What are the signs of BDD?
There are many, but the following can be clear signs that something is not right.
- Constantly checking yourself in the mirror
- Avoiding mirrors
- 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 okay
- Not believing other people when they say you look fine
With the advent of social media, where platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat and various other channels of online social interaction exist, so does the problem of realistic beauty standards.
With brilliant Photoshopping applications available, the whole world can show off their most glamourous face, skewing reality. With so many options to edit your physical features like eyes, nose, ears and lips, and even change skin tone, hair and eye color, our social media feed is full of picture perfect people.
Constant exposure to these altered images can lead to an unhealthy pressure to achieve unrealistic body types, which can result in body dysmorphic behaviors. Social media has become increasingly dangerous, especially for teens, who are most susceptible to suffering from insecurity and depression. This constant pressure can be very overwhelming on the psyche.
How does it feel?
Adam Collard of Love Island 2018 fame has recently been praised for bravely opening up on his battle with body dysmorphia. After struggling with his weight as a teenager, he said: “I’m content to a certain degree but I was never satisfied and I still am not satisfied. Everyone praised my body image in the villa, but nobody saw three days before when I was having a meltdown like, ‘Everyone’s gonna be bigger than me, everyone’s gonna be leaner than me, I’m not good enough.”
He went on to say, by way of advice: “Credit your progress right now from last week to getting better this week, don’t compare yourself to the people on Instagram.”
I spoke to Beth (not her real name) 24, who told me of her daily life, living with the condition: “I’m constantly thinking about the way I look. I look in the mirror so frequently, worrying about how my face looks and my weight. I always think everyone is looking at me and laughing, but I know that realistically that isn’t the case. I can’t get past it and am constantly thinking up ways to change myself. I can’t see a time when I will ever be happy with how I look.”
It’s perfectly fine to care about one’s personal grooming and putting the best face forward; however, when the desire to be the best begins to cause distress and interrupt daily life responsibilities, that is the time to seek help. BDD is still a lesser-known condition compared to other mental illnesses, but awareness is steadily growing. People are beginning to understand the condition rather than mistaking it for vanity.
Social media is here to stay, but society is becoming much more open-minded about mental health issues in general. If you seek it, there is help out there for those suffering from BDD.