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Body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is considered a mental illness and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. People who have this illness constantly worry about the way they look. They believe an inconspicuous or non-existent physical attribute is a serious defect. They respond to this by performing repetitive acts such as mirror checking or comparing their appearance with others. I am discussing this as I too have been there, and I am seeing more and more women suffering especially our young girls.

Growing up, I played a lot of football (soccer) and used to compete in athletics. My fear was not so much to look good in a dress as I am not a girlie girl but more so, I was looking at retired athletes whom all of a sudden put on this massive pile of weight and let go. I did not wish to be that athlete and it used to play with my mind.

BDD causes severe emotional distress. It is not just vanity and is not something a person can just forget about or get over. The preoccupation can be so extreme that the affected person has trouble functioning at work, school or in social situations. Any part of the body can be targeted. It is thought that between one and two per cent of the population may have BDD, with men and women equally affected.

Symptoms can vary according to which body part(s) is/are targeted, but general symptoms of BDD include:

Thinking about the perceived defect for hours every day.

Worrying about their failure to match the physical perfection of models and celebrities.

Distress about their preoccupation.

Constantly asking trusted loved ones for reassurance about their looks, but not believing the answer.

Constantly looking at their reflection or taking pains to avoid catching their reflection for example, throwing away or covering up mirrors.

Squeezing or picking at skin blemishes for hours on end. Wanting dermatological treatment or cosmetic surgery, even when professionals believe the treatment is unnecessary.

Repeat cosmetic surgery procedures, especially if the same body part is being ‘improved’ with each procedure.

Depression and anxiety, including suicidal thoughts.

Constant dieting and over exercising.

Grooming to excess for example, shaving the same patch of skin over and over.

Avoiding any situation they feel will call attention to their defect. In extreme cases, this can mean never leaving home. Taking great pains to hide or camouflage the defect.

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