Read about the faulty thoughts that can occur in the disorder:
We all have days when we don’t feel happy with ourselves. We look into the mirror and something isn’t right.
None of our clothes seem to fit. And no matter what we do, we’re just not satisfied with the reflection looking back at us.
BDD can affect people of all ages. However, it’s most common in young adults and teens. Both men and women are affected.
People struggling with BDD suffer from a disturbed idea of one’s appearance. They may for example have imaginary flaws, such as seeing their face as severely asymmetrical.
Or they can exaggerate actual imperfections of their bodies. For example, a small scar may be significant in their eyes.
Here is a list of ten faulty thoughts that can occur in the disorder:
Physical appearance is the main focus of BDD patients.
They see themselves as ugly or deformed even. They often struggle to find even one attractive aspect of their body. Because of this, a significant number of BDD patients seek help from cosmetic surgeons. Unfortunately, very rarely they are happy with the results.
Extreme focus on details
BDD patients very often focus on the tiniest details of their body, and see them as separate, disconnected parts. They are often unable to see their body as a whole and focus on the ‘big picture’.
They struggle to understand that it is ok to have imperfections, big or small, and that they all make up their body.
The importance of appearance
Individuals with BDD are extremely focused on the aesthetic aspects of their body.
Physical attractiveness is their main goal. They struggle to understand that their bodies can be appreciated for so much more, for example being strong enough to carry them from one place to another every day, or for having great memory that allows them to remember all the happy events in their life.
Attractiveness is being confused with happiness. BDD patients believe that they can only be happy when they have the perfect appearance.
This is the belief that other people also notice the flaws in our bodies and are as equally focused on them as we are. BDD patients may be walking down the street and hear someone laughing, they’ll immediately think ‘They’re making fun of how I look’.
Or if they see someone looking at them, they’ll be convinced that the person is looking at their ‘fat’ stomach or ‘huge’ nose. These thoughts make it very difficult for BDD patients to function in the society.
They become scared to leave their house and end up spending a lot of time at home, which only deepens their condition.
It is difficult for BDD patients to control the negative thoughts or images.
They think about their looks for hours and hours each day, making it extremely difficult to focus on any other daily tasks. They are also suspicious about other people’s reassurances that they look just fine and have nothing to worry about.
Individuals with BDD find it hard to accept compliments and believe in their honesty.
Poor impulse control
Even though the obsessive behaviour is very distressing for people struggling with BDD it is not easy for them to stop it.
They can’t simply stop constantly thinking about their appearance, or stop looking in the mirror to see if anything has changed. They also find it very difficult to resist any procedures or surgeries which could benefit their appearance and result in even the smallest improvement.
This can potentially lead to financial difficulties as a lot of such operations are pretty expensive.
Worrying about others
This is called BDD by proxy. Patients can also become obsessively concerned about the looks of their family and friends. They may project their own struggles and worries onto those close to them.
BDD patients have a habit of excessively comparing themselves to others. They usually conclude that they are less attractive. This only deepens their struggle and lowers their self-esteem further.
BDD patients very often get caught up in a vicious circle of their own thoughts and fears and it is very difficult for them to stop it.
Trying to be invisible
These behaviours mostly manifest when being around someone who is considered more attractive. Individuals with BDD may feel uncomfortable and try to almost camouflage themselves.
It can range from wearing oversized clothes to hide their bodies, avoiding eye contact, or leaving any social situations as soon as they start to feel uncomfortable. This allows them to feel safe and secure.
Keeping it a secret
BDD is often described as a silent disorder. People struggling with it find it embarrassing to admit what they are dealing with, and what is the reason for their anxious behaviour.
This again only makes them feel even worse. If you have recognised any of the mentioned behaviours in yourself, or you know that you are struggling with BDD remember that it is ok to talk to somebody.
There is no shame in feeling unwell and nobody should be feeling this way. Start by trying to talk to your GP or a trusted person, together it will be easier to seek help from a specialist.
Therefore, it’s important to remember that people who are overly concerned with their appearance may not be just ‘shallow’ or ‘vain’, but perhaps are struggling with a serious condition.
Next time your friend or relative confines in you about their worries about how they look do not diminish them. Try to better understand what they’re going through and help them as best as you can. Sometimes one conversation can make all the difference and help somebody seek professional support. There are many therapy options to treat BDD, so if you’re in need of help you will definitely find something that suits you.