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The Reality of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) — an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.

This isn’t vanity. In fact, I am far from vain or even close to loving myself. For me personally, this disorder is about anxiety, obsession and a loss of identity.

I never know what I truly look like.

Imagine seeing yourself as something you’re not every morning when looking in the mirror.

Imagine believing that you’re body type is different.

Imagine believing your teeth make you extremely ugly.

Imagine believing the anxiety-provoking thoughts.

This is what BDD is like for me. The thoughts alone are time consuming, never mind the compulsions that come with it:

— Measuring my body.

— Checking my appearance in mirrors, windows or anything reflective.

— Restricting my food intake.

— Excessively brushing and whitening my teeth, flossing and using sharp dental tools multiple times a day to get rid of stains that aren’t actually there.

You see, as soon as I wake up (and throughout the course of the day) I experience anxiety-provoking thoughts:

— “I need to check to see if I’m ‘overweight.’”

— “I need to look at my teeth and confirm that they need brushing.”

— “I’m obese — I must make sure of this by checking in the mirror.”

— “My thighs are abnormally large and everyone is going to see and think this too.”

These thoughts and compulsions can (and do) easily take over my daily life. I avoid social gatherings with friends and family due to my fear of smiling in front of others. I avoid exercising in public places due to my fear of looking “overweight” and being laughed at. I avoid events purely because I feel I haven’t checked myself enough times in order to feel a little bit calmer and able to attend.

It wasn’t until recently that I started cognitive behavioral therapy and realized the huge impact that BDD has on my life. I’ve realized that over the last 13 years it has slowly crept up on me, getting worse and worse as the years have gone by. And without help, it would only develop into an even greater problem.

I’m not expecting a quick fix, nor am I expecting this disorder to disappear. However, I am hopeful that in time (and after a lot of work from myself) I will be able to cope, manage and live with this disorder without it ruining my life. I also believe that anyone else suffering can do this too. All it takes is a little bit of reaching out.

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Originally published: June 30, 2017
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