BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER – WHY IT HAPPENS
No matter how much weight is lost, or no matter how much food is thrown up, the person with anorexia or bulimia will constantly see the same overweight, vile, failure in the mirror. This typically leads to very destructive and even deadly methods of weight loss in a desperate attempt to lose the distorted perception – in this case, fat (failure). It is very hard, though, for anyone that does not have an eating disorder to be able to understand just how someone could do this to themselves – go through hospitalizations and near death experiences even – but continually see themselves so distorted.
Even though Body Dysmorphic disorder isn’t just shown in cases of eating disorders (someone afflicted with BDD can obsess not about weight, but instead about their hair, nose, chest, etc.), it still hurts and ruins the lives of whoever is afflicted with it.
WHAT IT IS
At one time or another we all worry about our appearance, but when you wake up degrading your nose, hair, chest, WEIGHT, etc. and then continuing to have these thoughts all day, that’s when there is a problem. Closely linked to other disorders and psychiatric conditions, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (termed shortly BDD) is a serious disorder that is growing fast. People that suffer from BDD not only dislike some aspect of how they look, they’re preoccupied severely with it. Most get to the point where it is very hard to go outside or sit down comfortably, or go to work and talk to others, without thinking the self-degrading thoughts about their flaws. The thoughts soon over take the person’s mind and it is all he/she can think about.
The problem, though, is that all of these self-degrading thoughts about a perceived flaw are distorted. Many, many times the supposed flaw doesn’t even exist, or an “imperfect” body part is blown entirely out of proportion. However, the person themselves cannot see that what they believe is distorted. Many hold the belief that they are seeing all of this, therefore it MUST be true. This is one of the main reasons that it is so hard for people on the “outside” to try and convince even the most severely emaciated people with anorexia that they are not fat or failures – the people with anorexia and/or bulimia themselves literally cannot look in the mirror and see the same person that everyone else sees.
WHO IT AFFECTS
It’s estimated that Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1 in 50 people, mostly teenagers and 20-somethings with either a gradual or abrupt onset. Often the person is a perfectionist, like most people with eating disorders. Nothing is good enough because the person cannot see that what they have done is absolutely fine, or that they are on the border of near death (in the case of anorexia and extreme weight loss). Low self-esteem is a trademark of those with BDD as they feel like colossal failures for their perceived physical flaws.
Normally, I deal with the self esteem issue initially and then as the other associated problems unfold I look for the other triggers and patterns of learnt behaviour which perpetuate the constant self criticism and how other see them. Some of my most amazing clients have had serious body dysmorphic disorder along with an eating disorder and have made the most tremendous recovery.
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