Why Don’t I Love My Body? What It's Like To Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder

By Michael Arangua|Updated August 31, 2022

Having Trouble Making Time To Meet With A Therapist?

We've all been there; you can't find anything to wear, we ask our friends if an outfit makes us look fat, we ask our friends if a blemish is noticeable or we look in the mirror and go "ugh, I don't like the way I look today" or "Why do I feel ugly?" This happens to everyone from time to time. So what does it mean when this progresses to something more common? Why do some people find themselves worrying and obsessing over their appearance on a constant basis? This article is meant to give an insight into what it is like to have a mind that rejects its body.

Finding yourself constantly obsessing over how you look, wondering how other people see you, avoiding social situations because you don't like how you look or having your obsession over your physical features are a few warning signs that you may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Typically, once a thought or habit begins to affect your day to day life, it is time to address the possibility that there may be a real issue.

A day in the life of someone with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Maybe outfit number 4 will make my stomach look flatter; I whispered to myself as I slipped on a strapless flowy dress. I saw my arms bulging at the straps, like the hulk ready to explode. I felt my chest tighten as I surveyed my closet for something else. As my eyes scanned past the clothes I couldn't wear because they became too small because they made me look big because they made me feel uncomfortable. I pulled my Spanx nice and high over my stomach, grabbed a pair of leggings and a long-sleeved sweater. I would just have to make do with the heat.

I entered the restaurant, my boyfriend kissed me on the cheek and told me I looked beautiful. I snorted and said "yea thanks." He shrugged and said "I don't know why I even bother complimenting you, you never accept it," and he turned to look at the menu. My heart sank, I would love to accept his compliments, but they aren't true, and he knows it.

My friends started to enter the restaurant, in strappy heels and skin-tight dresses, they see me and come over to give me a hug "awe you look so cozy" Sarah says, "dressing down a little but I like it" Hannah mentions. "Let's take a group picture before we start eating". I smiled and got up, I felt cute, had done my makeup nice and was ready for a picture of my best friends. We all putout arms around each other as Sarah's boyfriend took the picture. They both clamored around to see the picture, the part I dreaded the most. My heart sank when I saw the picture, my pudgy face was round, and my chin was doubled.

You couldn't see pronounced collarbones like in the other girls, you could only see a where my sweater slipped off my shoulder, and my skin bulged at my bra strap. "omg we are ADORABLE" Hannah shrieked, she wasn't referring to me. I smiled meekly and sat back in my seat. I looked at the menu; I was going to order a salad. I can't eat a burger in front of these people, reaffirm their thoughts about me. "Wow look at Cassie eating a burger like an animal, no wonder she looks like a cow" "Maybe if she ordered a salad once in a while she wouldn't look so disgusting" Their thoughts pierced my ears from across the table, I know they won't say it, I'm their friend, and they aren't malicious people. I know they wish they had a better friend though. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, careful to hold my purse over my bulging stomach. I closed the stall and sobbed silently.

Does this story seem far-fetched? A worst-case scenario? Would you believe that this is a very real scenario that people with this disorder encounter on a near daily basis? Would you believe that this is not even the worst case? Worst case could involve self-harm, complete isolation, and severe eating disorders. This scenario is the daily life of somebody with body dysmorphic disorder.

"I don't have a disorder; I'm just ugly."

Was my very first thought the first time my counselor told me about BDD. I remember thinking that they wanted to label me with a disorder to make me feel better. He told me that this was, in fact, a symptom of this disorder, being unable to accept a compliment or an explanation for how my body looks. For example, when a loved one tells you that you are beautiful, you cannot accept this at face value because you do not believe you are worthy of that compliment.

So what exactly is BDD?

BDD is a disorder that essentially means you view your body, and in turn, yourself, in a much more negative way than the rest of the people around you. Approximately 1% of the adult population suffers from this disorder and is equally as common in males and females and is often accompanied by other mental disorders that tend to compliment it negatively. It is a good practice to become cognoscente of the major signs of BDD.

- Being fixated on your physical appearance

- Seeking different 'fixes' such as cosmetic surgery, makeup, form altering clothing, etc.

- Being unable to accept a compliment

- Feeling as though the people in your life are also fixated on your appearance

- Obsessive grooming

- Social withdrawal - spending more time alone

- Missing social functions, work, or school

BDD plays a huge role in how we live our day to day lives, it can often affect where we go, who we go with, and our perception of our self-worth. If someone sees 's themselves (or a feature of themselves) as very unattractive, the idea of being with people that they deem attractive may make them feel inadequate. They may feel as though these people are thinking negative thoughts about them, and maybe being nice to them out of pity.

People with BDD have a very difficult time accepting compliments because they do not feel they deserve them, compliments may even trigger some people. For example, if a person is fixated on their weight and a co-worker mentions that they are looking like they have lost weight, this person may take it as a slight. They may feel like a 'charity case' of sorts, and this compliment ends up doing much more harm than good.

Having Trouble Making Time To Meet With A Therapist?

Ok so it sounds like I might have BDD, what do I do?

An excellent question!

You have taken the first, and arguably, most important step when it comes to any mental health condition. RECOGNITION. Just recognizing that something may not be right, is a huge step in the right direction towards mental health. Welcome to your journey to mental health.

There are a few things you can do to move forward with this:

1) Talk to a trusted friend or relative - explain how you have been feeling, maybe just hearing someone disagree and reassure you that you do, in fact, matter regardless of your reflection in the mirror, may do wonders for you.

2) Talk to a counselor - Book a session with a counselor near you, most counselors are covered under extended medical. If you don't have extended medical, there are plenty of affordable and convenient options to get help. One of these is Better Help Counselling. An online service where you are matched with a registered counselor for a monthly fee.

Talking about it is all I have to do, and then I'll be cured?

The short answer is no. Remember that anything worth doing won't be easy. We are talking about altering your perception of the most important thing, yourself. There are plenty of things you can do in your own time to help reduce the impact this disorder has on your day to day life.

1) Become aware of your triggers, so you know how to avoid them. For example, I found I was often ruining my day by changing outfits 10+ times in the morning. It made me late to work, it made me feel sick, and it made me feel unattractive. So horribly so that I actually would be unable to go to work or school on certain days. I decided to go through my closet and find the clothes I find most flattering and set out my outfits for the week. It was not the most fun evening, but my mood at work improved.

2) Ask yourself some hard questions - What do you truly not like about your body? When did you start disliking your body? Look at pictures of people, ask yourself if you notice anything about their physical appearance that would make you think negatively of them. Often you will look at pictures, and you will only see people, you do not see bodies. This is exactly how people think of you. Ask yourself what you love about your body, ask what you wouldn't change if you could.

3) Try meditation or relaxation exercises. As I mentioned above, BDD is often displayed with other disorders such as anxiety or depression. Learn to relax and take time just to relax and let your negative thoughts go. Let yourself rest; you deserve it!

If you, or someone you know, think you might have BDD it is highly recommended you speak with a professional. This disorder can be very harmful to your body, mind and overall well-being if it is not dealt with.

Mental health treatment for body dysmorphic disorder is becoming increasingly available and shows success in treating the condition.
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