Body dysmorphic disorder

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?


  1. Read the common compulsive behaviours, and they are things I do every day.
    I thought that every female does that. Freaked me out slightly.

  2. reading all this behaviour listed here... i thought it was normal to do this. all girls do this.

  3. Everything you say is me exactly....I'm glad to know I'm not the only as I feel crazy. I feel as if I talk about these things to anyone, including my therapist and psychiatrist, that they think I'm crazy....they probably already think I am anyway from the little they already know about me. I absolutely hate the way I look, though people call me "model perfect," so thin, too thin.....I really wish I could see this. It saddens me to read your story, because I know the pain that is dealt here and it's constant hell. I've been struggling with anorexia and bulimia for twenty years and it's become a hell.....bulimia stole my life completely in the past five years and I've been slowly trying to break from the tight grip but it's very hard. I also restrict extremely, many days keeping nothing down. I actually googled "goodbye mia hello ana" when I found your blog because I want so badly to get out of this horrid cycle and anything I could read that goes against every aspect of mia may just help me. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog, instead of the many "pro ana" sites of sad young girls that my previous searches had brought me to. Your site is exactly what I needed, someone else going through the same shit, but who [like me] is in treatment for a "so-called" recovery that may not really exist. Also you seem to be more my age [I'm 34]; it just saddens me to find children and teens trying to "become ana/mia" for this is a terrible psychological disorder, not a diet, not even really about food and weight but at the same time all about food and weight. It's really a contradictory illness with so many factors. It's very nice to meet you. Thank you for your time in helping others with your experiences and understanding. Though I hate the binge/purge cycle and want out so badly, I too have an addiction to the scales and the dropping numbers and to the emptiness that is hunger but not truly hunger. I also see myself as huge, disfigured, out of proportion, and "old". So in answering your question, yes, I think I do have BDD for the symptoms are all there, though I never thought I have a dysmorphic image of myself. Although, I also didn't think I was depressed until I finally gave in to antidepressants and now, after a month, feel a great difference in my mood; this alone has been helping me bring down my b/p cycles from 10-12 per day to 4 x per day on a bad day, but with some good days of only one episode. I'm on Wellbutrin XL 300mg which does not increase weight gain like the Prosac and other SSRIs my psych tried to put me on in the past. Actually, it sort of makes you not wanna eat, not care so much about food, and gives an ability to even stop mid binge and just purge it and not wanna repeat it. Anyway, I look forward to reading more from you and I wish you the best of luck!

  4. Many peoples suffer disorder but best therapy and new technique is solutions disorder problems.

  5. Hey!! Thanks for the post. Mental health disorder really BBD really ruin your life completely. I know this because I gonna through this horrible state of mind. To overcome the depression I searched for the best Counselling in South West London. Finally, I get rid of it. Hey! you have shared really a great post.


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