PART 1 – INTRODUCTION
Scenario – In anyone’s eyes you look fine, like a normal human being, perfect even to some people. The mirror means everything to you because you know you have to take care of yourself and that you constantly have to look your best.
For some reason, when you look at yourself in the mirror, you find that you’re frowning at your own reflection. This is because your brain tells you so. The feedback it gives you is completely different hence all you see staring back at you from the mirror is not very encouraging.
It could be your skin, your nose, entire face, hair, stomach, height, bum, fingers… or just your entire body that you feel is a problem area. You don’t like that particular body bit, hence you start getting obsessed with trying to fix it. You try fixing it but you never see the results that you want or you find it getting worse and worse until it reaches a point where you cannot stand yourself anymore.
You start loathing mirrors (or anything that gives you a reflection of yourself, like photos), you cannot stand cameras, and sometimes you cannot even stand to touch yourself. In turn your confidence takes a huge plunge, so much so that you can’t take it when people look at you because you are afraid they will see your unsightliness and imperfections.
You get nervous when you think people are staring at you, you think they are laughing at you and pointing out your flaws. With time you can’t stand people and you can’t stand social gatherings hence you develop a social phobia.
Mood swings become rampant when in the company of cheerful people and jealousy checks in when you see someone who according to you has the perfect body. You see life as unfair, that they have what is perfect and not you. At this point life means nothing to you and therefore every aspect of your life-work, relationship, academics, social life… -suffer.
Anxiety attacks, chronic low self esteem, strong feelings of shame, over dependence on someone (family, the significant other…) become the norm. In the long run, if you don’t seek help you turn against yourself and may become a cutter, a cosmetic surgery addict and eventually, suicidal.
If the above scenario seems all too familiar, you could be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
So what really is BDD?
It is an anxiety disorder where a person becomes excessively concerned and preoccupied by a perceived defect of a specific body part, several bits of the body, or the whole package. It has largely to do with excessive social acceptance fears relating to one’s body image.
This disorder usually stems up from the onset of adolescence as this is the stage where one becomes self conscious, starts to discover him/herself and cares about fitting in societal standards regarding the body image.
What usually happens is that the individual’s rating of the body attribute fails to fit with that of an objective observer, who may not even see anything unattractive or unusual about the attribute, or who may notice a trivial problem. It may involve a slight actual defect but the sufferer will constantly obsess over it.
It is usually linked to an eating disorder – such as overeating, anorexia and bulimia nervosa – or having a generalised anxiety disorder beforehand. These are all brain disorders that have to do with one’s physical appearance.
Other factors that may trigger the disorder are the genetic factors where there is chemical imbalance in the brain, the visual processing is not functioning normally, or one could be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
There are also the Psychological factors, which could emanate from one’s upbringing, other life experiences that took away self esteem, including bullying, teasing or criticism.
Environmental factors and personality are also a cause, which could be resultant of someone’s sensitivity to criticism or rejection hence excessive shyness, characteristics of perfectionism, unassertiveness, and/or displaying a schizoid personality.
It is equally common among both men and women.
It is important to note that it is perfectly normal for someone not to like some part of their body, but BDD comes in when hating that body part becomes an obsessive situation where one vilifies their being regularly.