In an age where there is a growing disconnect between the shapes and sizes of the majority of everyday people “in real life” and those of men and women whose physiques are advertised as some sort of ideal on television, online, and in print media, the issue of body dysmorphia is becoming more common.
It’s a rare individual who doesn’t have something about their body they wish were different.
But body dysmorphia is more than that. It involves chronic, unrelenting self-ridicule that may take over someone’s thoughts to the extent that it interferes with work, socialization, and mental and physical health.
Body dysmorphia—more formally called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)—is more than fretting over some post-pregnancy stretch marks, a few gray hairs, or a couple of pounds that have crept up around the midsection over the years.
BDD is characterized by a self-perception that is detached from reality. Individuals may imagine flaws that are nonexistent, or, they may view very mild and extremely common “faults” in their appearance—things other people don’t even notice—as so disfiguring and aesthetically unpleasing that they take over the person’s thoughts and interfere with everyday life.
Put simply, individuals with BDD see things that aren’t there. They become obsessed with perceived shortcomings about their physical body, either completely imagining things, or taking things that are there—blemishes, perhaps, or scars, cellulite, or excess body fat—and blowing them out of all rational proportion.
Negative thoughts about one’s appearance can become so pervasive and all-encompassing that they actually lead to more severe conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and unnecessary and dangerous cosmetic procedures.