Your Relationship with Your Body and Body Dysmorphic Disorder
We all have days when we don’t feel fully at home in our bodies. Societal beauty standards, pressure from the media, and advertisements from the fitness and beauty industries can all work against our self-confidence at times. The most intense manifestation of negative body perception is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD. No matter how we feel about our bodies, we can improve that relationship. It is possible to recover from BDD.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, previously known as Body Dysmorphia, is a chronic mental health disorder that can be diagnosed by a medical professional. People with BDD have an obsessive preoccupation with “flaws” in their physical appearance—characteristics that are mostly unnoticeable or completely insignificant for others.
Does this sound familiar? Do you constantly worry about your appearance? Everyone does this to a certain extent. However, some of us—as many as 1 in 50 according to some estimates—spend a disproportionately large amount of time worrying about how they look.
Period Tracker & Calendar
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
If every time you see yourself in the mirror or in a photo, you immediately look for that one aspect of your body you can’t stand—the shape of your nose, your double chin, your hair or your body hair, the shape of your breasts, the general shape and size of your body, or anything else, this may potentially be a sign of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. BDD affects both women and men in roughly equal proportions and is more commonly found among teenagers and young adults, although it is possible that people in other age groups are underdiagnosed and suffer with the disorder in silence.
People with BDD spend hours obsessing over their appearance and trying to improve it. They compare their bodies to images they see on social media, turn to others for reassurance, and in some cases spend a great deal of money on beauty procedures or plastic surgery in the hope that this will “fix” them. Some BDD sufferers are forever examining themselves in the mirror while others go to great lengths to avoid mirrors and photographs altogether. They become slaves to obsessive, repetitive behaviours linked to appearance (such as excessive grooming or masking the body part they can’t bear others to see) and often experience strong intrusive thoughts related to how they look and how they imagine others perceive them. BDD is not commonplace insecurity, this is negative obsession that causes significant stress and mental turmoil, saps well-being, and interferes with the ability to live a healthy life.
A person suffering from BDD might refuse to attend a social event for fear of being ridiculed for their appearance; a small imperfection is seen as a “serious defect” and taken for proof that their whole body is “ugly” and “unworthy”. A common characteristic of Body Dysmorphic Disorder is the constant fear of outside judgment and the simultaneous need for outside validation.
People with BDD are convinced that others judge them harshly for minor “flaws” in their appearance and this becomes a source of near-constant stress.
Where does it come from?
As with most psychological disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder can arise for a variety of reasons; there often is a combination of environmental (e.g., previous experience with bullying), psychological (e.g., negative self-image, low self-esteem), and biological (e.g., genetic predisposition) factors in the background.
Personal or family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders as well as personality traits such as perfectionism can contribute to the development of BDD. Bullying and peer pressure to look a certain way are often contributing factors.
If the BDD obsession is connected with body weight, the sufferer also has an increased risk for developing an eating disorder as these also tend to be linked with a similar predisposition toward anxiety, negative self-image, and perfectionism. However, with BDD there is usually a specific body part the sufferer finds especially unappealing.
How is BDD treated?
The good news is that BDD can be successfully treated with the help of mental health professionals. However, it is common for people who suffer from BDD to avoid seeking help, either because they don’t fully recognize their own obsessive tendencies, or because they fear further ridicule for bringing up such a seemingly “insignificant” issue.
Any problem that causes stress and reduces the quality of your life is significant. You deserve to get help, no matter the issue.
It is important to realize that mental health disorders such as BDD usually arise together with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, or PTSD. A licenced therapist can help you address any underlying issues and help you work toward overall health.
BDD is a chronic condition. This means it will take time and most likely a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes, and maybe even several different therapists to treat it effectively. Don’t despair if it doesn’t go away right away. Be patient with yourself and work proactively to improve.
One of the most popular methods of treating BDD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Licenced CBT therapists work with their patients to identify negative thought patterns and irrational behaviours and then create practical solutions for replacing these thought patterns with beneficial ones in every-day life. CBT doesn’t necessarily address the causes of old psycho-emotional wounds, but it provides realistic tools that help you cope with, and even overcome, the restraints a disorder has placed on your life.
For more serious cases of BDD, medication can be helpful. Underlying depression and anxiety can be treated with antidepressants, and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are often helpful for treating obsessive behaviours and relieving intrusive thoughts. SSRIs allow the serotonin your body produces naturally to remain in circulation longer as conditions such as depression and BDD are linked to lower levels of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs are generally very safe and have been shown to greatly alleviate the symptoms of disorders such as BDD and OCD.
It can also be helpful to talk to others going through a similar experience. Support groups for Body Dysmorphic Disorder are available in many places and online. Participating in a support group has many benefits: the group destigmatizes the experience, helps you to better understand your behaviours, and provides support and encouragement.
BDD is especially prevalent among teenagers and young adults. This is a serious disorder that can lead to serious consequences. Early intervention can be very effective in preventing the further development of more serious symptoms. If you notice signs of BDD in young people (or anyone, really) in your social circle don’t ignore them. Be considerate and offer friendly support but be prepared for your offer to be turned down. If you see someone who is really struggling, be a good listener and acknowledge and accept their feelings even if you don’t understand them. You can help them seek therapy or a support group and support them in their own self-care practices. Acknowledge small wins whenever you can and observe them to learn what triggers compulsive behaviours. “Hold space” for them when you can and offer practical support.
Be careful with your words and don't comment on specific body parts. While it might seem helpful to make light of what bothers someone else, this approach often backfires. Saying something like “Hey, don’t worry about that weird mole/belly roll/crooked nose so much” is asking a person who is unable (at least in the moment) to manage their anxiety about “that mole” to push down their fears and pretend it’s not a problem, plus it puts the body part in the spotlight, which is their biggest fear. Social pressure is one of the biggest contributors to body-image related mental disorders, so you don’t want to add to the pressure they are already feeling.
People who obsess over specific flaws often dream of plastic surgery. Modern plastic surgery has come a long way and can treat issues that would have been untreatable in the past, leaving almost no trace. A plastic surgeon can change the shape of a chin or a breast or a buttock, as well as remove marks left by diseases and medical surgeries with relative ease.
However, for those with BDD the core issue is not actually the “unsightly” body part—it is the negative obsession, the low self-esteem, the intrusive thoughts, and the many hours of stress that are lost to this disorder. Health professionals generally agree that plastic surgery is not an effective treatment for mental health issues and can lead to even greater complications for an obsessive psyche. Transforming the body is unlikely to magically cure damaged self-esteem and stop obsessive behaviour. A person suffering from BDD is more likely to keep looking for “flaws” that can be “corrected”.
I haven’t been diagnosed with BDD, but I can relate! What now?
If you haven’t been diagnosed with BDD but find that you have strong negative feelings about your appearance, here are a few things you can try to start healing your relationship with your body:
Find an online self-assessment for anxiety and begin addressing those symptoms.
Get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, go on walks regularly—all the good stuff!
Make sure your wardrobe, including your bra, is the right size for you. Even if the size on the tag is bigger or smaller than you’d like, well-fitting and comfortable clothing will instantly make you feel more at ease.
Drastically limit the time you spend on social media and the sites you visit online that may be negatively influencing how you feel about yourself.
Look up body positivity and body neutrality content online, sites dedicated to celebrating real bodies—stretchmarks, belly rolls, scars, and all!
Catch yourself noticing physical “flaws” in yourself and others. Consider why you feel this way and what that judgement means to you, where does it really come from.
Try thanking your body for everything it does for you every day for a week. You can start a journal to trace your thoughts.
Find some brief meditation or breathing techniques that appeal to you and practice them regularly for several weeks. Reflect on your experience. Perhaps this is something you would like to incorporate into your daily routine on a permanent basis.
Reach out to one or two people you feel you can really trust and ask them if you can share the negative feelings you’re experiencing. Anonymous mental health lines can also be immensely helpful. Simply to be heard and understood, to have our experience validated, is often the springboard we need to make a change.
The ugly roots of beauty standards
In the last few decades there has been a paradigm shift in many places around the world; we are becoming more understanding of each other. Each of us can do our part by practicing acceptance of the people around us, including ourselves. By doing so we are creating a better world for ourselves and for the generations to come.
Fear of the unfamiliar, hatred of what seems strange—a body type or skin colour that goes against the ruling notions in the society, a different set of abilities and disabilities—has no place among compassionate people in the 21st century. We can learn to defend ourselves against arbitrary standards that exist only to sell us products and ideas.
Cultivate compassion for yourself and be kind to others and you will attract those who do the same. Celebrate who you are. The beauty and the imperfections, the shadow and the light, there is no one else exactly like you and the world needs your contribution! Don’t be afraid to ask for help; all of us need help sometimes. We believe in you!
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
Perrotta, G. (2020) “The Concept of Altered Perception in ‘Body Dysmorphic Disorder’: The Subtle Border Between the Abuse of Selfies in Social Networks and Cosmetic Surgery, Between Socially Accepted Dysfunctionality and the Pathological Condition, Journal of Neurology, Neurological Science and Disorders, 6(1): 001–007.
Ryding, F. C. & Kuss, D. J. (2020) “The Use of Social Networking Sites, Body Image Dissatisfaction, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A Systematic Review of Psychological Research”, Psychology of Popular Media, 9(4), 412–35.
A clenched jaw is an unfortunate side-effect of a stressful life. You may be overworking your jaw if you grind your teeth at night, eat too many hard foods, or have a bad posture! If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to chronic issues known as TMJ disorders.
Everyone who’s had to deal with greasy hair knows how annoying and inconvenient it can be. But sometimes, it’s more than just a nuisance. A greasy scalp is prone to irritation, dandruff, and other skin conditions. To get rid of excess oil on your scalp, you must get to the root of the problem. Find out what contributes to greasy hair and learn nine ways to reduce excess oil production.
This is a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately. Sometimes it is unavoidable, in certain situations completely understandable, but being tired should not be a constant state. Being “always tired” is often normalized and even romanticized to an extreme in our society, but it is actually very dangerous. Excessive tiredness is always a sign from your body that something might be off. Let’s look at the most common explanations behind constantly feeling tired and some possible solutions.
They say you are what you eat. This idea can be helpful, provided we know what we are eating (which we often don’t). It can be very tempting to rely on an outside source to give us a list of special ingredients that will magically solve all our problems.
The only sure method of birth control is abstinence, they say. While it’s true that if you never have sex, you cannot become pregnant, there are several methods of surgical contraception, or sterilization, that are also nearly 100% effective. What are they and why is this topic so heavily stigmatized?
Many of us enjoy the occasional drink. Alcohol consumption has played a central role in almost all human cultures since at least about 4000 BC. The development of agrarian societies was based on the cultivation of grain to make bread and, the evidence tells us, to make alcohol. From the earliest recorded use of alcohol, drinking has been a social activity subject to local cultural norms.
Sweating is a natural bodily function—all of us sweat regardless of age, gender, or intensity of physical activity. Sometimes we notice changes in how much we sweat or how our sweat smells. There are reasons for these changes.
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition caused by the presence of endometrial cells outside the uterus. It is known to be a leading cause of infertility in women. There is no known cure, but there are plenty of treatment options for combating symptoms.
Almost no one would refuse a relaxing massage after a long day’s work. Massages can be therapeutic, a medical necessity, part of an athletic training routine, or even a spiritual journey. Regardless, massage is a great way to take care of your body.
Humans have an innate need for social interactions, including physical touch. Touch is vital for a person’s wellbeing. As the Covid-19 pandemic mandates social distancing, many of us are left touch starved. What are the consequences, and is it possible to compensate for this deficit?
If there is does not happen to be a toilet nearby, there is nothing dangerous about holding your pee for a while. It happens to everyone, and the unpleasant feeling will be forgotten as soon as you finally have the opportunity to relieve yourself.
Throughout a woman’s lifetime, her body goes through many changes. Menopause is a significant transformation, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive life. This transition isn’t necessarily an easy one. It can go on for many years, and many women experience symptoms that disrupt their lives. Hormone replacement therapy is one way to reduce the impact of the most challenging symptoms. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy.
The choice of dietary supplements available in any given drugstore, let alone online, is vast. They promise to provide us with vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients in the form of pills, drops, capsules, and powders. Some of these can be truly useful while others are merely money-making fads for their producers, and some can even be quite harmful if used recklessly or purchased from an unreliable seller.
A urinary tract infection or UTI is a bacterial infection usually caused by gastroin-testinal bacteria that has travelled from the anal tract to the urinary tract. The condition is uncomfortable and painful, and, if left untreated, can lead to kidney damage.
Many of us dream of having perfect curls—including people with naturally curly hair. This hair type is misunderstood surprisingly often and having a head of full of healthy and attractive curly, wavy, or kinky-coily hair remains a difficult but not impossible goal.
Many of us only truly learn to love ourselves and our bodies fairly late in life. Prior to that, we tend to spend time and energy judging ourselves about things we cannot change. Self-love is a skill made difficult to attain by the very impractical beauty standards that are popular today.
Going to the gynaecologist can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time or if you have had a previous negative experience. Fear not! Reproductive health is an important aspect of your health, and you are in control of who you choose as your doctor and what happens at the appointment.
Millions of people take prescription and illicit drugs for medical or recreational reasons. When such substances are taken without precaution, they can develop into an addiction. Drug addiction is dangerous to the affected person and the people close to them.
Vaginal mycoses, or vaginal yeast infection (also called candidal vulvovaginitis, vaginal thrush, or candidiasis) is extremely common. Mycoses is found in about 20% of vaginal secretions tested in laboratories. The pain and discomfort caused by this condition often requires immediate medical attention.
Vision is one of the primary senses humans use to interact with and learn about the world. It is also the main tool used in most jobs worldwide. In addition, our lives increasingly happen through digital screens, creating an even higher risk of overworking the eyes.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many changes in our daily lives, including the new norm of wearing a protective face mask while out in public. The mask provides necessary protection against the virus, however prolonged use can have an impact on your skin.
Brain fog is a common experience that can happen to anyone due to lack of sleep, certain medications, or exhaustion after heavy physical activity. However, many menstruating people experience brain fog right before menstruation, and sometimes the symptoms are so intense that they disrupt daily life.
The number of men and women who suffer from heart disease is very similar. However, women are less likely to receive life-saving treatment for a heart attack because patients and doctors often don’t recognize the characteristic symptoms and dismiss them as stress or anxiety.
Pain is a universal human experience, but it is also highly individual. It can be hard to evaluate the exact cause of pain, but it is always a signal that something potentially dangerous is happening to your body.
Millions of women worldwide struggle with hair loss. Human hair growth passes through four stages. At the end, a hair is shed, and a new hair begins to grow from the follicle. However, a stressful lifestyle, poor diet, hormonal imbalances, and certain illnesses can cause excessive hair loss and pattern baldness in women.
Where do children come from? All parents eventually get this question. There are many different ways to explain the complicated process of forming of a new life to a child, but our answer is a short and precise—children come from the uterus.
Going green is important for the health and safety of our own bodies, as well as the safety of our planet. Making green choices and reducing your environmental footprint can start with your feminine hygiene routine.
Millions of people across the globe use antidepressants to cope with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Although not a cure, the right antidepressant can be incredibly helpful with treating symptoms.
The human body is naturally covered in hair and still we have a long history of going to great lengths to remove it. Contrary to some beliefs, body hair removal serves a purely aesthetic purpose. This makes the choice to leave it there or get rid of it up to you.
Uterine prolapse affects nearly half of all post-menopausal women. This is a serious health concern that often requires medical or even surgical intervention. However, there are ways to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help you avoid uterine prolapse later in life.
Tattoos are not a new invention, many cultures have a long history of using tattoos in their religious and symbolic practices, or purely for aesthetic reasons. Tattoos were reintroduced into popular Western culture in the 20th century. Artists such as Lyle Tuttle, Cliff Raven, and Don Nolan were some of the people who influenced the re-emergence of tattoos.
Toxic shock syndrome is an acute, potentially fatal infection caused by staph or strep bacteria. Both types of bacteria can live harmlessly on your skin and in your nose and mouth—it is when there’s an overgrowth within the body that problems occur. The condition is commonly linked to the use of highly absorbent tampons during menstruation.
Acne is a widespread skin condition, well known as a teenage issue, although it also affects adults. It can be tempting to cover it up (with makeup or otherwise), but this is, at best, a temporary solution and is more likely to make things worse.
The philosopher’s stone, the elixir of immortality, the universal panaceas, the fountain of youth—these are all legends about the secret to extreme longevity. People have been thinking about eternal youth as long as there have been people. Slowing the signs of ageing with anti-ageing treatments is one way to postpone the inevitable changes. However, such procedures can only influence visible processes and have minimal to no impact on our overall longevity. Yet many people spend a great deal of money to look young for as long as possible. In this article, we will discuss anti-ageing treatments and how to care for ageing skin.
Although things have begun to improve, women are still too often dismissed and even ridiculed for health complaints such as pain and fatigue. No matter what society says, these feelings should not be a part of everyday life. Two chronic conditions that sometimes underlie lasting pain and tiredness when no other illnesses are present are fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Any abusive relationship, be it with a parent, sibling, or romantic partner, leaves scars. Moving forward with your life can be daunting enough, let alone building the foundations for a new healthy relationship.
You may have experienced heartburn after eating or at other times during the day. Despite their menacing names, heartburn and acid reflux are common (yes, there is a slight difference between the two), and are not considered disorders on their own. They do, however, cause discomfort and can indicate a more serious problem if the sensation lingers for too long or occurs too often.
There is a lot of online content aimed at women and a lot of that focuses on our health and wellbeing. We may have moved past the toxic diet and dating trends of the early 2000s but, sadly, misinformation in the realm of “feminine” topics is still rampant and can take many different forms. This article will help you recognise unreliable information so you can avoid it.
A new member of the coronavirus family was first identified in December 2019. Over the past several months this new or novel coronavirus has spread around the world causing a global pandemic. This virus, COVID-19, is very contagious and causes mild to severe flu-like symptoms, especially affecting the respiratory organs and heart. Almost two million people have been infected worldwide and more than 100, 000 have died.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the world: there is a very good chance that you will get at least one type of HPV during your lifetime. Preventative measures include practicing good hygiene and safe sex, getting tested regularly, and getting vaccinated, the last of which we focus on in this article.
Preventative testing is a powerful tool in the battle against conditions that worsen over time. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the preventative measures you can take to tackle HPV-related cancers.
If you ask someone what migraine is, chances are they will tell you it’s a kind of severe headache. While partially true, this is an oversimplification. In this article, we explore the stages, symptoms, and myths associated with migraine, and discuss various coping strategies that help mitigate symptoms.
It won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that smoking is unhealthy. Even so, many people still smoke regularly. Even those who consider themselves to be non-smokers, occasionally smoke when out with friends for a drink.
Beautiful, well-cared-for nails are aesthetically pleasing and also indicate good general health. When the body lacks essential nutrients, the first indicators often appear in our hair and nails. While the way we groom our hands and feet can be a way of expressing personality, our nails have other functions, too.
Food is a necessity in our lives. It gives us energy and nourishes our bodies. But sometimes, what is supposed to provide us with vitality takes it away. People with eating disorders use food as a crutch for dealing with negative or overwhelming emotions until their relationship with it becomes unhealthy.
Procrastination, forgetfulness, irritability, and anxiety are all normal parts of human life. For people with ADHD, however, these are some of the more common challenges they face every day. For them it is nearly impossible to “get it together” and “stop being lazy”. Even the simplest tasks can require excessive effort, which is hard to understand if you don’t have ADHD. Women especially have trouble getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD.
Everybody has it, and an individual smell is a completely natural part of having a body. Having a strong body odor can become a problem in interpersonal communication, though. And sudden changes in your body odor can also signal underlying health issues – or, in some cases, simply changes in your hormone levels.
Hormones are responsible for myriad bodily functions, and they affect our bodies in myriad ways, including our mood. Since the menstrual cycle features so many different hormonal processes, most women experience related emotional symptoms.
Urinary incontinence affects 200 million people worldwide. People who develop incontinence experience urine leakage, lack of bladder control, and the frequent urge to urinate. It mainly affects older, pregnant, or postpartum women. Although many women choose to live with the discomfort, urinary incontinence can be reversed by improving one's lifestyle and incorporating regular pelvic muscle exercises.