Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Body dysmorphic disorder

I had a request yesterday to write a post about body dysmorphia
I think it's a subject that is really relevant to a lot us suffering from eating disorders

I got the following information from Mind.Org

What is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image. If you have BDD, you experience concerns about your appearance that cause you significant anxiety and have a disruptive effect on your life. You may also develop routines and habits, such as excessive use of mirrors or picking your skin, to deal with the worries you have about the way you look. These habits usually have a significant impact on your ability to carry on with your day-to-day life.
I see myself as completely disfigured and I am constantly trying to convince people of this.
It may also cause other problems such as:
  • feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness
  • isolating yourself to avoid situations that cause you anxiety or discomfort
  • depression or anxiety
  • misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • self-harm
  • suicidal thoughts.
Many people with BDD do not seek help as they are worried that people will judge them, or think they are vain. This means that many people are likely to experience BDD for a long time before seeking help.
People assume you are 'vain' but this is a serious life threatening illness.

What are the common signs of BDD?

If you have BDD, you have obsessions that cause you significant anxiety and may also develop compulsive behaviours, or routines, to deal with this. In this way, BDD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). (See Understanding OCD.)
Although everyone has their own experience of BDD, there are some common signs.

Obsessive worries about the body

If you have BDD, you will often spend several hours a day thinking negatively about your appearance. You may be concerned about one specific area of the body or you may be worried about several different areas.
Common areas of anxiety include:
  • facial features, such as the nose, eyes, hair, chin, skin or lips
  • particular areas of the body, such as the breasts or genitals
  • feeling that your body is unbalanced or lacking symmetry
  • feeling that one of your features is out of proportion to the rest of the body
  • feeling too fat or too skinny.
Some people with BDD also experience an eating problem, but not all people with eating problems will have BDD. (See Understanding eating problems.)

Common compulsive behaviours

You may also develop compulsive behaviours and routines to deal with the anxiety you feel about your appearance.

Common compulsive behaviours include:
  • using heavy make-up when out in public
  • brushing or styling hair obsessively
  • obsessively checking your appearance in mirrors or avoiding them completely
  • changing your posture or wearing heavy clothes to disguise your shape
  • seeking constant reassurance about your appearance
  • checking yourself regularly by feeling your skin with your fingers, particularly around areas you dislike the appearance of
  • picking your skin to make it smooth
  • constantly comparing yourself with models in magazines or people in the street
  • seeking cosmetic surgery or having other types of medical treatment to change the area of concern.
I would say that I do suffer from body dymorphia
And have done since I was a child
I remember going to ballet class
We wore leotards and tights and our bodies were very much on show
Throw in a room covered in mirrors and you have a recipe for disaster
I remember looking at the girl in front of me at the barre
She was blonde and long limbed and so slim
I felt like a heffa-lump compared to her

Growing up I was convinced that I had huge thighs
I thought they are out of proportion to the rest of my body
I still feel like this today
But looking back at photos of myself as a teenager
I can see that I was a normal weight
My thighs were not huge
It seemed to be all in my head

It's extremely frustrating and confusing to have an eating disorder and not being able to get an accurate picture of your size
It's very strange to think that we can not trust our own judgement
Or even our own eyes
The mirror is not our friend
And we can spend a lot of time body checking
Or avoiding mirrors at all cost

I remember when I was in treatment
In the group room there was a huge mirror hidden behind a screen
During body image group the screen would be pulled back and the massive mirror was revealed
I hated this group
But sometimes it was very helpful
We did exercises that showed that a mirror is not always accurate
And it can be deceptive
We also did body mapping
This is where you draw the outline of your body as you think it is
Then you stand against the image and someone draws your actual outline
There was a always a big difference between the two outlines

I have accepted that I don't see myself as I am
If I look in the mirror, I see an overweight person
Even though my clothes are a small size
Even though the scales says that I am underweight
Even though I don't eat properly
Even though everyone around me tells me that I'm not
I still see a fat person
It's very disconcerting

The cruel thing about this illness is that we never get to enjoy the one thing that we crave
Because we never believe that we are thin enough
Even when I had a BMI of 13
I still didn't believe that I was underweight
 I still thought I needed to lose more weight

So what can we do about this?
Well for me, I stopped body checking in the mirror
We see what we want to see
It's a pointless exercise staring at ourselves in the mirror because we zone in on the parts of ourselves that we don't like
And they become magnified
One way I try to get a realistic picture of what I look like is to look at photos
For some reason I can see myself more accurately in photos
I can see myself as I am
Maybe because it's more objective
I'm not sure
But I can see myself in a more realistic light in photos
Do you find that?

Where as girls seem to want to be smaller
Men seem to want to be bigger
Muscles are attractive to men and the bigger the better
I remember Mary showing me a presentation on BDD
She showed me a picture similar to this one

I think it's just as shocking as seeing a picture of a very underweight person

I think as eating disordered sufferers we see the world and ourselves a little bit differently
We seem to be more sensitive
We tend to be perfectionists
We are harder on ourselves
We judge ourselves more harshly
And that includes our bodies

I was chatting to my neighbour this morning
She knows about my ED
She asked me how I was 
We were just passing the time of day
Then she said 'You look really well'
This sounds like an innocent comment
And anyone else would probably love to hear that they look well
But not me

I interpreted 'looking well' as 'You've gained weight'
And I interpret 'You've gained weight' as 'You look fat'
So in my mind she has just insulted me
Only someone with an ED could make this connection

We live in an image obsessed society
We are the generation that posts every little thing on Facebook and Instagram
It's hard not be self concious 
It's hard not to compare ourselves to others
All too often our self image in interlinked with our body image
And that shouldn't be
Our bodies are just a shell
A vessel to hold what we are really all about
Our personalities
All the little quirks and foibles that make us who we are

BDD can take over our lives
I know that my own body image has stopped me from leaving the house many times
I look in the mirror and  hate what I see
A flabby tummy
Tree trunk thighs
An old face
Dry, straw like hair
But if I asked you what you see when you look at me, you would probably see something different
We zone in on what we think are the negative parts of us
And that becomes so big in our heads that we can't see the positive

So many people turn to plastic surgery to solve body image problems
We see people like Heidi Montag from The Hillsw who had 10 plastic surgery operations in one day
She became like a caricature of herself


but rather than change our bodies to resolve this problem, I think the real work is done on the inside
Changing our perceptions of ourselves
Seeing ourselves as a whole rather than just a body or a face
I know that I have a lot of work to do in this area
I am far too hard on myself

I was wondering about you
Do you have BDD?
What have you done to try and change your body or your face?
Did it help?
What do you think can be done to help people with BDD?


  1. Thank you so much Ruby!! This was such an interesting read and it was good to hear your experiences too. I think it's the case of telling yourself repeatedly that your head is lying to you and learning to accept this - though this is by no means easy! If I feel like I'm spiralling down when I look in the mirror I have to be strict with myself and just stay there until I can say what is good about my body. It's the hardest thing to do but sometimes you just have to give everything to stop your head ruining your day... ruining everything you've achieved. It's funny how you can slip in a few seconds!! Thank you again, it's such a relief to know I'm not alone in this. Amy xxx

    1. You are so welcome Amy and thank you for suggesting this topic
      I think it's really relevant for a lot of us

      I am so glad that this helped you feel less alone
      I remember someone once said to me that if I am feeling a certain way, there is always someone else who feels it too

      Much love Amy x

  2. what if my head is not lying and i am ugly after all? DESPITE my BDD?

    1. I think that it's our EDs and our BDD that tells us we are ugly
      I'm sure the people in your life think you are beautiful
      Beauty shines from the inside out I believe
      Does that make sense?

  3. hey ruby

    i mostly avoid the mirror nowadays. makeup is kept to a minimum, and i don't evaluate my body. otherwise things start to go wrong. this is after many years of doing the opposite. with this technique i find im better able to cope with the negative side of things. when i get the odd moment of looking at myself i tend to slip back, and within days i see myself in a different light. truly works for me. thanks for a good piece. em. x

  4. Hey Em,

    I'm glad that you have found something that works for you
    I try to avoid mirrors too
    I just zone in on all the parts of my body that I hate

    Thanks for this x

  5. this is a very interesting post.
    i do not know to be honest. i feel smaller than my weight, and feel like i have some form of logic. however, it is people that are always convincing me that i am fat or something or rather or it is stuff they say that my mind derives as "oh, you're fat. stop eating." it's quite difficult as i think people around me corrupt my perception more than i do. and then i start to doubt myself. i don't think i look acceptable anymore just because people convince me that the way i look is not acceptable. i feel like despite the fact that my sizes indicate that i am small and that my measurements and body fat percentage indicate that i am small, i am fat. and people fuel it so much rather than trying to convince me otherwise. and for some reason, it's just me that they like to pick on. a person that is obviously obese could be standing next to me and they'd be picking on how big my thighs are or my ass (which are the parts of myself that i am most self-conscious about) and it is quite discouraging. it is a social taboo to call a fat person fat, but apparently, they can destroy my confidence and my feelings.
    i sound very shallow, but it's just that it annoys me so much. and it's a constant trigger for my depression.
    it is sad to hear about how you used to be. i am glad that you are getting better. you deserve to be better. you deserve all good things in life.

    -Sam Lupin

  6. I explained my BDD to a coworker once saying my eyes are broken. I told her when I would have a female admission I would have to do a body assessment, get the person's weight and go through their belongings. It was a very odd process for me. A female would come with my height, I would weight them and I could see what their body looked like. I would weight them and be amazed every time. How could I weigh less or the same and look so huge when they looked normal? My eyes are broken.


Thank you for leaving some love x