Let’s talk bodies.
Everybody has them—see what we did there? But not everybody loves what they got. We would venture to say that most of us have felt insecure about our bodies from time to time.
Today we’re going to look at a more extreme version of body dislike called body dysmorphia. We’ll talk about what it is and offer a few examples to help you understand it better.
What is Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia goes well beyond, “I wish my jeans fit like they used to.” Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition. A person with this disorder will obsess over one or more areas of their body. (1) They may:
- Constantly look in the mirror to check their appearance
- Spend hours getting ready each day
- Hyperfocus on a perceived flaw
- Ask others questions like, “Do you see this flaw? Do I look okay? How about now?”
These actions are not merely a distraction in the day; they sometimes are the day. Body dysmorphia can interrupt the necessary and enjoyable routines of life. And a person with body dysmorphia will often go to extreme measures to fix or cover up a flaw, including cosmetic procedures and dangerous dieting habits.
What Does Body Dysmorphia Look Like?
Now that you know what body dysmorphia is, let’s look at a few common examples of how it manifests itself in others. Keep in mind that these are just examples. If you think you may struggle with body dysmorphia but don’t see yourself represented here, we can help.
Some people with body dysmorphia have unrealistic expectations for themselves.
These include things like: my thighs shouldn’t touch; my arms shouldn’t jiggle underneath; my belly should be completely flat.
The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of people—even those who are extremely fit—will fail the test in at least one if not all three of those categories. Bodies aren’t meant to be perfect, but body dysmorphia disagrees.
Some people with body dysmorphia feel extremely ugly regardless of what they see in the mirror or hear from others.
A person with body dysmorphia may very well be found attractive by a spouse or partner but reject this sincerity as an obligation.
A person may have negative thoughts about themself and say terrible things about themself out loud. And despite reassurances to the contrary, they will continue to believe they are ugly.
Some men with body dysmorphia will obsess over what they consider to be a lack of muscles.
These men may view their bodies as weak and go to great lengths to build strength.
They may spend excessive time at the gym lifting weights and will likely abuse protein powders or steroids to counteract the feelings of muscle weakness. (3)
And finally, some people will experience body dysmorphia during recovery from an eating disorder.
At the same time, it can cause feelings of shame and discomfort as the body she worked so hard to control changes without regard to societal or personal standards.