What it’s like living with body dysmorphia
The most damaging thing about BDD is that you can’t recognise it for yourself
Firstly I’d like to say that before I start, Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects a lot of people in so many different ways, I am just telling you my story and my experiences with it.
So what is it? The NHS sums it up as such, ‘Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.’ This can affect anyone is any way, some people can be overly conscious of their nose for example, for others, maybe more commonly it involves their body shape. This in extreme cases can lead to some pretty negative outcomes, surgery for example, extreme dieting or self-harm.
For me, it was my body. From as long as I can remember I’ve not been happy with the way I look, and there are so many people out there that can feel the same way. However, its when this insecurity turns into an obsession that the problem begins. Personally, I didn’t have a clue what BDD was when I first heard of it. Initially, I was put forward to the NHS with symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, during a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) it seemed that a lot of my low moods were linked to the way I looked or the way I thought I looked. I knew that body dysmorphia wasn’t the only thing going on yet suddenly a lot of things started to make sense.
My behaviour regarding my body was bizarre, I would text my (then) boyfriend pictures of myself, I’d say to him ‘look at how good I look’ and naturally, hearing that you would assume that I’m a confident person but all this was just to gain reassurance from someone else. I need someone who was able to look at me and tell me that I was beautiful. And other days I would just complain to him about how insecure I was, I can’t imagine what a pain in the arse I was. Everything that I was going through affected so many of my relationships, leading to problems with friends or messy break ups.
I think the thing that is most damaging about BDD is the fact that you can’t recognise it for yourself. You assume that what you see in the mirror is what everyone else sees. Despite people telling you that there’s nothing wrong with you, the obsession and the paranoia, can eat you up inside. I’m not proud of a lot of the things I did to myself. All I wanted was to be happy and to love myself and I was willing to do anything to make it happen. I wish I could take everything back, everything that ever I inflicted onto myself but unfortunately you just have to accept that you’ve become stronger. Every set back, every low day and every negative thought pushes you towards being a stronger person.
I found it very difficult to talk about what was going on, I still do. It was especially hard to talk to my parents about it. Your parents are the people that are meant to love you the most in this world and they are the ones who only ever see you as perfect, it was impossible to tell them that I hated myself and I hated the way that I was. It was hard to form relationships as well, I couldn’t love myself so why would anyone else? At points it was unbearable, at times I couldn’t see a way to carry on living. When an insecurity grows and grows it takes over your life, there was a lot of parties I didn’t want to go to and there were a lot of school days that I missed simply because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house.
But I did get better, I am better. Through understanding all of my symptoms, about how body dysmorphia was affecting my moods and anxiety, it completely changed my outlook. Things became easier to handle and I became more confident, I started to retrieve the person that I thought I had lost.
And one day I met my boyfriend, someone who changed the way I saw myself and suddenly I could love myself again. Starting university also helped – it’s where I have met some of the most caring and understanding people in the world. BDD is not something that ever goes away, at least, not completely, but now if I put on weight I won’t punish myself for it and it is not the end of the world.
Uni can be a hard time for people with this disorder (or any mental disorder for that matter). I’ve noticed that alcohol for example, really distorts my reflection in the mirror. I think this sounds odd for a lot of people but from the start of the night I could feel super confident and by the end of the night (to me) it looked as though I’ve put on two stone. It’s a really weird disorder in the sense that it could change my perception from one day to the next. I do urge people to be open with their illnesses, you shouldn’t have to hide it or feel alone, my flatmates for example were so lovely and understanding when I spoke to them about it (granted it took a few weeks and a few trebles to break down the barrier completely).
If you know someone could be suffering with this disorder there are people out there who can help. I can tell you now, it does get better and you won’t always feel like this.
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