Body dysmorphia is characterised by obsessive thoughts that certain aspects of one’s body are conspicuously unattractive to others. It can severely restrict a person’s lifestyle because they may only wear certain clothes when going out in public (for example, wearing a thick heavy coat in hot weather), they may avoid certain activities where their body may be more visible to others (such as swimming), or they may become so anxious about their body that they avoid going out in public altogether. Alternatively, they may become obsessed with a certain aspect of how they look – e.g. blemishes on the skin, or shape of a particular feature, and they may feel they need plastic surgery or other treatments to remove the perceived problem. Another increasingly common kind of body dysmorphia is the belief that one is either not slim enough or not toned/muscular enough.
The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation offers a wealth of resources on their website at the link below:
Body dysmorphia is among the most common psychological problems and given the fact that we are constantly bombarded by the media with images of people who seem physically “perfect”, it’s small wonder that steadily increasing numbers of people feel their physical appearance is inadequate.
Body dysmorphia is a greatly misunderstood problem: sufferers are often perceived as vain and self-obsessed – but nothing could be further from the truth. The habits of those with body dysmorphia are driven not by vanity but by a sense of inadequacy, a feeling of being uncomfortable in one’s own skin.
Frequent misunderstanding leads to secrecy and shame about body dysmorphia, but seeking counselling may be a very significant step in addressing the problem. Counselling provides the opportunity to speak candidly about feelings around body dysmorphia that may have been kept secret for years. To be affirmed and understood in one’s feelings and beliefs about one’s self may pave the way for significant psychological healing and recovery from body dysmorphia.