Body Dysmorphic Disorder

‘I shiver, chilled, the grave-chill against the simple heat of my flesh: how did I get to be thick big, complete self, with the long-boned span of arm & leg, the scarred imperfect skin?’ wrote Sylvia Plath as self-acceptance slipped far away from the grasp of the helpless woman staring at something she couldn’t come to terms with; her own reflection.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) by definition refers to a condition in which people obsessively think about a perceived imperfection or flaw. This imperfection could be something as simple as the slant of their nose. It is something that others can’t really notice, but the person with this disorder can’t seem to not notice. A person suffering from BDD might try to avoid social situations because of the embarrassment they feel because of their perceived flaw or imperfection. People with BDD can often be found looking at mirrors, constantly seeking reassurance about their perceived flaw, sometimes for several hours during the day. They often believe that their perceived flaw makes them ugly and they tend to hide that part of themselves by dressing differently or applying make-up or even seeking out numerous cosmetic procedures.

It certainly can’t be easy to look in the mirror and be constantly conflicted. People with BDD often lead very difficult lives and it is hard for them to express themselves because others can’t seem to see what they see. Others can keep telling them that their nose is not crooked, that their eyes are perfectly fine, that it doesn’t matter if their face is symmetrical or not but they just can’t listen much less comprehend the meaning of these words. Sure, reassurance is pivotal for people with body dysmorphic disorder but what good is that reassurance if they don’t believe even a word of it? Thus, body dysmorphic disorder is a serious problem in our society and it needs to be addressed. People don’t talk about it very often but they need to. Body dysmorphia often leads to depression, social anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and people tend to avoid social situations because they’re insecure about the way they look. This social anxiety then morphs into depression and then leads to suicidal tendencies. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s time to break it. As a society we need to listen to people’s stories to understand rather than respond, we need to cultivate empathy, and we need to collectively learn to raise our voices to shatter the conditioned notions that we have been fed.

Social media is another reason that body dysmorphic disorder is so prevalent in our society. Seeing edited and filtered pictures of the perfect lives of people can make anyone question the state of their reality but we need to understand that nothing on social media is real. It is a giant web that is created just to bait people into believing that their lives aren’t as good as the others. Social media is a sham. It is a fib that people fall for. Stretch marks are real. Acne scars are real. All noses aren’t small and upturned and it is completely okay to accept ourselves as we are. We must realize that jeopardizing our mental health is neither trendy nor cute. Self-acceptance is cute and loving oneself is the latest trend.

You may or may not personally know someone with body dysmorphic disorder, so here are some famous people who have suffered from the harrowing illness:

1. Sylvia Plath: Everyone knows that Plath was diagnosed with depression after her first suicidal attempt at the age of 20, but very few people know that she not only suffered from depression but also from body dysmorphic disorder.

2. Franz Kafka: The author of ‘Metamorphosis’ wasn’t just a cynic. He suffered from body dysmorphic disorder, too. He used to avoid mirrors and refused to wear new clothes and he said that if he’s going to look unattractive, he might as well look like that in old clothing.

3. Ileana D’Cruz: The actress shared her experience with body dysmorphic disorder and her road to recovery a few years ago.

The treatments for body dysmorphic disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and setting positive role models for oneself.  One might not necessarily be able to help someone with body dysmorphic disorder but one can try and be there for that person because they go through really difficult times. The least one can do is not let them go through all that alone.

We often don’t realize the power and impact that our words have and that is one of the reasons why there’s so much conflict everywhere. Therefore, it is our responsibility to be kind to everyone and not make them feel worse about something that they probably are insecure about.

Words are wounds and words are chaos, but words are blessings when put carefully across.