Imagine if every time you looked in the mirror instead of seeing all the positive, beautiful and amazing features about yourself, you’re thoughts automatically focus in on and see what you believe to be ‘negatives’.
My thighs are clumpy.
My stomach isn’t lean.
My bingo wings are so saggy.
My forehead is so wrinkly.
This post is a little different to usual, but not something I haven’t touched on before. It is a topic I believe should be openly spoken about more and know is not something however which is spoken about enough. Even writhing this I feel ashamed and embarrassed admitting it but I feel it’s something that I am not alone in living with.
Living with BDD has had a massive negative effect on my life. And unfortunately people who don’t suffer or have never suffered from a condition like this find it hard to understand it. Which is why I wanted to share my story, and the reasons behind my whys. It’s not something to be ashamed off – there are some thoughts we just cannot control, but we can manage them.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it. In BDD’s delusional variant, the flaw is almost always imagined. If the flaw is actual, its importance is severely exaggerated. Either way, one’s thoughts about it are pervasive and intrusive, occupying up to several hours a day.
A fairly common mental disorder, and is estimated to affect up to 2.4% of the population. BDD usually starts during adolescence, and affects men and women roughly equally. Besides thinking about it, one repetitively checks and compares the perceived flaw, and can adopt unusual routines to avoid social contact that exposes it. Fearing seeming vain, one usually hides the preoccupation.
This condition is not something that can be addressed and changed over night – how do I know this? Because I live with it every single day and it has taken me almost over 18 months to come to terms with that.
No-one really knows the causes of BDD – perhaps in my case it’s stems from my anxiety and lack of self confidence. I have always been an anxious person, it’s just the nature of my personality. I forever worry about things I cannot change and have no control over. I worry I am not doing enough. I worry about what’s going to come next. I worry i am not achieveing enough. I worry about problems that don’t even exist. I worry about what people think of me. I feel self conscious and blame myself when things go wrong that I couldn’t control. I always see and fear the worst in situations I have no control over and in my case is perhaps where my BDD stems from.
How does BDD affect me?
BDD affects everyone differently. For me – it comes down to my body composition and appearance. My mind struggles to see what my actual appearance is, and instead focuses on parts of my body which are perfect to others, but that I struggle to accept.
Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that when I look in the mirror I see myself as fat or out of shape. No – but I do pick up on the smallest of flaws about my body that others don’t. Our bodies love themselves for who they are, and how they are shaped but it’s our minds that sadly need the convincing.
Before I accepted the reality of BDD and took back control of my life, my life as a whole was in a very bad place. I used to workout twice a day, 7 days a week because I didn’t see myself as skinny enough. I used to eat a strict macro based diet basically starving myself. I used to get stressed out if I looked a little more bloated than the day before. I avoided social situations lost contact with a lot of my closest friends. I used to avoid eating out and going for drinks because i couldn’t handle ‘eating of plan’ or feared the bloating.
Scrolling through my camera feed from Jan-Sept of 2016 and it is full of selfie after selfie of photos I NEVER POSTED. Why? Because to me they weren’t perfect or acceptable for social media. I look at them now and am shocked at how skinny I was but couldn’t see. How frail I looked. How unattractive it was.
I have since come a long way, but by far am nowhere near completely in control of the situation. I often find myself comparing my physique to people I follow on Instagram wishing I looked like them instead of accepting me for me. I sometimes take the same selfie 10 times but won’t post it at all because I see flaws that others won’t see at all. I sometimes stress when I can’t control situations around Food because I fear the ‘weight gain’ and bloating. In the past I’ve even found myself looking at my friends, wishing I had their bodies instead of loving my own. But I’m managing to deal with the situation and have come a long way in the last few months.
I no longer macro count which for me was a massive step – I now allow myself enjoy meals out with friends and push my stresses to the side, reminding myself that bloating and any change in my appearance the next day won’t mean weight gain but rather water retention and it will regulate itself.
I no longer take drastic measures when it comes to my training – I’ve learned to train for me and my goals and because I want to, not as a form of punishment.
I accept my body, and try to love it for what it is. Perfect.
So, If your reading this, and can relate in some way, please know that you are not alone. Dont hesitate to reach out for help, or share your struggles with me. If you’re reading this, but have not yet come to terms with the idea that you too might suffer from BDD, don’t feel ashamed. Speak about it to someone. Confide in your friends.
My biggest regret – not accepting the reality of it sooner, and not opening up and confiding to those around me either.