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Original photo by Allison Oliva
Mental Health

The Daily Struggle Of Having Body Dysmorphia

Growing up, my friends and I would do daily affirmations where we said one thing we liked about our physical appearance or personality. I could always come up with an aspect of my personality that I liked, but never an aspect of my physical appearance. Even today, I struggle to find something in my physical appearance that I like. 

This is due to my body dysmorphia. 

The Mayo Clinic categorizes body dysmorphia as a mental health disorder "in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can't be seen by others. But you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.” 

My disorder affects many aspects of my everyday life. My habits might not seem like a big deal or might be silly to others, but they can make my life exhausting. 

Sucking In My Stomach

One of my habits is sucking in my stomach. I suck in my stomach throughout most hours of the day unless I’m sleeping. This is because even if I already have a flat stomach, I still see little bumps that make me feel like I weigh 900 pounds. Another reason I do this is that, even if they aren’t, I feel like the world is staring at me, so I try my best to hide as many imperfections as I can.

Bulimia & Anorexia

I also struggle with bulimic thoughts. Even if I have something small like a nacho chip, I think about making myself throw up and I feel disgusted with myself.

In the past, I've also struggled with anorexia and going on extreme diets. At the age of 13, I went on a juice cleanse for 10 days. 


Anytime I shower or am getting dressed, I spend a long time staring at myself in the mirror. I pull at my skin and analyze all the reasons I hate my body. Analyzing my body has ruined some very special moments for me. For example, on my 21st birthday, I deleted almost all the pictures we took because I thought I looked disgusting. I changed outfits three times hoping I could hide my body so that the pictures weren’t ruined, but nothing helped.

Plastic Surgery

Because of my body dysmorphia, I have spent hours searching for a plastic surgeon who can fix everything I hate about myself. However, I never actually go forward with it because I’m terrified I’ll end up looking worse than before the surgery. 

These are just a few of my daily struggles, but there are many, many more. It’s also important to keep in mind that my experience with body dysmorphia may be different than others. 

I may look perfectly calm on the outside, but on the inside, I have thousands of thoughts about my imperfections. While I am in therapy to work through these thoughts, it’s a daily struggle. Logically, I know that it’s all in my head, but it doesn’t make it any easier to not see a monster in the mirror. There are days when I genuinely feel good about myself, but they aren’t often. 

If you also struggle with this or know anyone who does, be kind! Be kind to yourself and to those around you. Everyone is struggling with something and we never know what it is until that person speaks up. 

I work every day to find value in who I am by forcing myself to complete the affirmations I couldn’t when growing up. Even if I don’t feel like a model, I work on being happy about small things like the fact that I have my arms to hold my dogs or my feet to help me walk. 

It all starts with baby steps.

Allison is a feature writer at UCLA who loves hanging out at the beach and eating any kind of dessert.
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