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body dysmorphic disorder?.. please help

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I think my partner has body dysmorphic disorder, and am posting in an attempt to learn more about it, while also gaining support for me, and hopefully getting advice on how to support my partner.

We have been together for 7 months, and we both have quite extreme mental illnesses, which makes it difficult at times, but we love each other. He always worries about his appearance, much more than I would consider to be 'normal'. He used to suffer from bulimia, and even now focuses on his weight (he is convinced he is overweight and this is making his depression worse - he isn't overweight, but he isn't the skeleton he likes to be). He cries about how ugly he is, and how I deserve better, and sometimes reassurance will be enough, but other times nothing will get through to him at all. A few days ago he resorted to making himself sick, which he hasn't done since he was in the full grip of bulimia. It scared me, as I don't want him slipping down that route again. Every evening he will eat and eat and eat, and has told me he feels unable to stop, and every day he will wrapped in self loathing, unable to see clearly through the mist of desperation.

Two days ago, he got a pimple on his upper lip. He wouldn't leave it alone, despite my warnings, and yesterday it looked 'even worse' (it is barely noticeable in reality). He spent literally 5 hours looking at it in the mirror while he was supposed to be working, he became untalkative, distant, cold, blunt and obsessed by this blemish. Due to my mental illnesses, this evoked my paranoia and I spent the day in an abyss of despair and insecurity. He will not leave this blemish alone, refuses to leave the apartment or talk to people, wouldn't even come to bed in fear of me kissing him in his sleep, and when we went to bed last night he wore a mask, until it affected his breathing. We are supposed to be going on a trip out tomorrow, as it is his birthday, but he can't face it. Last night he told me if it is still there next week, he will call in sick to work, as he can't handle going in, and if they won't let him take the time he needs, he will resign. This scared me, as his job is one of the most important things to him. He doesn't want intimacy of any kind with me, apparently because of this blemish, and is barely talking. His anxiety has sky rocketed, and I don't know how I can get through to him.

He was born with a very slight chest 'deformity' (hate that word) which is hardly noticeable, but he hates it, and constantly seeks reassurance in regards to it. He also got his hair cut last week, and will not stop obsessing over it. I have lost count of the conversations we have had about his hair, and he refused to leave the apartment without a hat to cover it. His hair looks good, and I've told him so, but he is unable to see this. He is wracked with self hatred, and I am at a loss to know what to do.

I know he can not help the way he feels, and I tell him that although I respect his views, I do not agree with them, and that he is gorgeous to me (which is true, he is, and even though I am biased, he IS good looking). Not only is this hell for him, this is affecting me too. That may sound selfish, but I'm trying my hardest to be the support he needs and I don't know how to be. My mental illnesses mean that I get consumed by self loathing, paranoia, insecurities, and an overwhelming fear of rejection, which becomes unbearable when he shuts off from me, and becomes distant. I love him so much, and I will never give up on him, but I'm getting desperate.. please, does anyone have any advice on how I can support him? What am I doing wrong, and what do I need to do, just so he knows he is supported and loved?

Any responses would be much appreciated.


Well-Known Member
Does he have a pdoc? Is he on meds? You've been together less than a year so you may not know if it is a cycle with him. Perhaps an anniversary of an event that hurt him in the past and he may not even realize it? It could be any number of things.

I have to keep in mind that only I can work my own program for trying to stay mentally balanced and I cannot work another's program. That's the hardest part. He may just need to be distant for awhile.

Try not to take it personal. And that is so hard too. Make sure you are working your program so you'll be okay to be helpful. A co-dependent group teaches how to do this.

One thing you may have control over is healthy meals. Keep it simple, nothing expensive. Avoiding unprocessed foods is a good way to be helpful to another person.

I hope you both feel better soon.


Thanks for the reply Chargette.

Yes, he has a psychiatrist and a psychologist. He has ADD and severe social anxiety, so is on dexedrine and xanax for this. I don't think this is a cycle, as he is very.. obsessed with how he looks anyway, and has been since we first met. I could be wrong though, he could be triggered by something. As I said, it is his birthday tomorrow, and he has no family and very few friends, so he usually finds it difficult, but I'll be spending the whole day with him, which he said he wanted, but I guess subconsciously the date could be added stress for him, which has worsened his already bad views of himself.

I totally understand that he may need to be distant, but I think due to my past, and my health I find it hard to be rational about that. When I can think rationally, I know this isn't about me, it's just hard when his behaviour of distance and no intimacy then triggers me. I'm really trying hard not to take it personally, but you're right it's really difficult. I find it hard to understand it sometimes... not the way he feels, but the way he reacts towards me. I have my mental health workers, who I talk to, so I am trying to keep myself as well as possible, in an effort to help him, because he matters more to me than I do.

I've been cooking home made meals, using low fat ingrediants in an effort to help him feel better about himself, but even then he will eat a whole panful (bar one serving for me) of whatever food it is, and then hate himself for purging. It's a vicious circle. He has a picture of a very thin person on the wall, that he looks at every day, and regularly tells me I would love him more if he looked like that. It simply isn't true, and I try telling him this, but recently it has rarely been sinking in.

Once again, thank you for your response.
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