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Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Battlecry

Mad as a sack of ferrets!
#1
Body Dysmorphia. Or Body Dysmorphic Disorder/ BDD. Nearly destroyed my life. And for the doubters; I can assure you that it's very, VERY real.

Basically, it's not entirely disconnected from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and revolves around an individuals usually (very distorted) perception of their appearance. It can be in part or whole and the most common fixation is with skin. As it was for me, due to acne. That and being underweight and balding by the age of 16. Basically, "pale, frail, ugly and old" was what I saw in the mirror.

It's not just vanity. It's a crippling obsession. Aside from the horrendous impact upon self esteem and subsequent social anxiety, it can result in ritualistic behaviours and often extreme measures to correct the perceived defect. For those that can afford it, that might mean surgery. And as the fixation often then shifts to another "defect" once the main one has been addressed, it can be a very scary, never ending cycle of harmful behaviours.

For me, I was as obsessed with checking in the mirror as I was petrified of seeing my reflection because what I saw repulsed me so much. There I was, supposedly in the prime of my youth, surrounded by pretty young things who were flourishing into adults, socialising as independents and exploring sexuality. Meanwhile, I had acne for about ten years, from the age of 13 onwards. I still get spots in my thirties but my complexion is, for the most part, quite good. I don't even have any scars!

But at the time it was pretty awful. Only on my face, but unrelenting whiteheads and boils, literally appearing by the hour as each day went by. My pale, oily skin shone like a strip-light and I become utterly paralysed by it. I checked mirrors constantly for the latest spot and to reassure myself that it was "tolerable" but was inevitably disgusted by my countenance. I squeezed constantly to try and remove the gunk and plastered my skin in a military regime of chemicals that often dried it out to the point whereby it wrinkled, dried and then pealed off in strips, inevitably making it look worse. I then wore bloody great sticky plasters, to hide the issue but only drew attention to myself. I wore nothing but hoodies and jumpers, pulled tight around my face, even in the height of summer. When coverup didn't work, I was so irrational I even resorted to rubbing my skin with sand paper (you can only imagine the result). My own reflection made me sick. I had nightmares about it, literally waking up in a cold sweat having envisaged my face decomposing.

I wouldn't leave my room. I just locked myself it for days at a time, sneaking out late at night for the bathroom and to get food from the kitchen. When I had to pretend I was going to school, I would walk up the drive and turn left to the fields, instead of right to the bus stop. And I would sit in derelict barns in the pouring rain until it was home time again. I couldn't bare to be seen by others. I had the highest non-attendance rate of more than 200 students in college. Still came out with the best exam results of all of them though!! On the days when I did brave school, I would often end up glancing my reflection in the window of the bus, or in the bathroom mirror and that would be it. Off the bus or leave the building. Anything to avoid being seen by others, who I was convinced would be as repulsed as I was.

In addition to crap skin, I went through the usual growth spurt of teenagers but stress related IBS meant couldn't put on weight, so just looked gaunt. And good old male-pattern- baldness ensured I started losing my hair at the age of 16. All combined - my perspective and the inevitable bullying meant I wanted to be dead. I remember getting a Christmas card one year from another kid and he'd drawn a old man, with no hair and a walking stick in it labelled "[Name] - aged 18". Which kinda just reinforced my belief that it wasn't all in my head.

Whether it caused my depression or was just a bolt-on, I don't know. Probably the latter, because there was several other components. But it was a massive factor.

I barely saw my family. I didn't attend school. And I sure as hell didn't socialise. I either bailed or failed to even turn up to the point where the invites stopped coming. I couldn't cope with the anxiety, so why put myself in those situations?

When I went to Uni, I spent a fortune on events tickets for Freshers Week. And ultimately didn't leave my room for five days, boiling soup in my kettle and eating cereal bars because I couldn't go out to buy food. The anxiety associated with this wicked illness is hard to describe. But I'll endeavour to in another post, as anxiety kinda underpins much of who I am.

Thankfully, a combination or chemicals and drugs for acne, antidepressants and getting older meant that things improved. I'll never be confident of my appearance and there is a period of at least ten years with limited photographic evidence that I ever walked this earth. But things are considerably better. I No longer hide my face. I don't suffer from the crippling social anxiety that I had. I now check the mirror just to make sure I look presentable, nothing more. I can even pose for a photo. But I still have zero confidence and when I socialise, I will enter a pub or restaurant and within seconds, clock every mirror and overhead light in order to conduct my own mini-risk assessment. My other half knows which seats I won't sit in and will warn me if there are large mirrors near the bathrooms, for example. But I get by.

So that's an insight into BDD. Hopefully it brings some perspective to it for those that think it's only for the vain. And if you're there reading this and relating to every aspect of the agony it causes, my heart goes out to you. I wouldn't profess to advise on how it can be dealt with - the circumstances are different for each individual. But I would recommend a book - "The Broken Mirror" by Katharine A Phillips if you think this is impacting you. It really helps make some sense of the nonsense that is body dysmorphia. Hope it's a helpful starting point for you.
 
#2
Omg im so sorry this happened to you. I "apparently" have the same thing. My skin is awful. Years of picking and squeezing has left with the most awful skin texture. I mean nowhere on my face does not have a little mark of some sorts. My boyfriend and closeest friends are claiming they don't know what i am on about and think i have lost the plot yet i take photos and i can see how dreadful it looks and i look in the mirror and just fall apart. I dont know how things got so bad to the point now that i just feel like everyone is lying to me. I spend hours sometimes looking at my skin wishing i could one day look in the mirror and see some improvement but everyday is like hell. I dont want to go in the bathroom for fear of looking at myself. I have thrown every other mirror out. I just hate my hideous face its so sad. Im glad you have came along and told us your story. For once i dont feel alone. X x x
 

Battlecry

Mad as a sack of ferrets!
#3
Thanks for your reply. Glad you connected with it, although I feel your pain. I tried to reply to you privately because the rest of the world doesn't necessarily need to see this, but because I talk too much, I got rejected due to the word count, lol!!
But I guess others may find this helpful too. And at least future responses may not be so wordy...

But I truly understand what you're going through. As I said, I am better now. (Well, from a BDD perspective. The rest of me is still a fruitcake!)
I even have photos in which I could even describe myself as handsome. Just. At a push.

But by god, you have my sympathy. It's a cruel, vicious illness. No one gets it. Ever. Not even mental health professionals in my experience.
And there are times - which you will experience often - when you think, "I'm not f**king ill, I AM THAT UGLY!" But the truth is you aren't. You really won't be. Few and far between are the rather unfortunate souls in the world that perhaps are not that pretty. You, just have crappy skin. And if you don't need me to patronise you by remarking on the appearance of someone I've never met, you are... I'm sure... quite beautiful on the inside. So when it get's all shitty. Just hold on to that. Because you know that much is true, regardless of the spots.

But the problem is, skin is the biggest organ you have and it's what everyone sees. So who gives a sod about the inside?? It's outward appearances that everyone thinks of and I know that's what causes your distress. So, more practical support. Buy that book. It's great. Also, if you haven't already - meds for acne. Otherwise products like Panoxyl are great - 10% benzoyl peroxide. Use it every other day (every day and you'll dry you're skin out to the point where you'll look worse). I buy it online. Can't find anything of the sort in high street pharmacies in the UK. And a friend of mine has tried micro dermabrasion (if you can afford it) with amazing results to reduce scarring. So there are options.

And maybe some Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT). In layman's terms - challenging your perception of issues. It can help. If you're really unwell, it's probably not going to achieve much because you will struggle to engage with it. But it's worth thinking about.
 
#4
Thank you for taking the time to reply it means a lot. I will definatley buy that book thank you. I have tried microdermabrasion but it just aggravated my skin. Iv been advised that the dermapen will work great on me but my problem is i don't think the dermatologists realizes my concerns fully. Lighting in thier office is different and it makes my skin look almost ok. Its certain lighting that makes it look truly awful. My friends and boyfriend think im worrying about nothing and they and the doctor claim my skin is normal but i dont see how they can say that. To me every pore on my face is slightly indented from squeezing any lump or bump over the past 15 years that i dont look normal. Even your typical acne scarring i would prefer over my skin.

I understand what you mean about where you sit that i can definatley relate to. It's one thing i hate about going out and worrying about unflattering lighting. My real question is though how do you determine if your brain is making a bigger deal of things and tricking you or if people or lying to you to protect your feelings? Sometimes i ask my partner "why do you make out like im going mad" his response is "because you are".

Does your other half understand how you feel or why you feel that way? It seems like i am fighting a losing battle with everyone and i get the impression people are getting a bit fed up with me now.
 

DrownedFishOnFire

Back into the wild where I belong. Out of your way
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#5
I am always picking at the skin myself, squeezing each pore. Making tiny blemish into a huge mountain of sores all over. My arms and back is full of scars and current scabs as well as my face. I'm well into my 30s and the urge still hasn't gone away to pick. Part of me think its a self harming thing other part of me think it is because its all in my head
 

Battlecry

Mad as a sack of ferrets!
#7
Thank you for taking the time to reply it means a lot. I will definatley buy that book thank you. I have tried microdermabrasion but it just aggravated my skin. Iv been advised that the dermapen will work great on me but my problem is i don't think the dermatologists realizes my concerns fully. Lighting in thier office is different and it makes my skin look almost ok. Its certain lighting that makes it look truly awful. My friends and boyfriend think im worrying about nothing and they and the doctor claim my skin is normal but i dont see how they can say that. To me every pore on my face is slightly indented from squeezing any lump or bump over the past 15 years that i dont look normal. Even your typical acne scarring i would prefer over my skin.

I understand what you mean about where you sit that i can definatley relate to. It's one thing i hate about going out and worrying about unflattering lighting. My real question is though how do you determine if your brain is making a bigger deal of things and tricking you or if people or lying to you to protect your feelings? Sometimes i ask my partner "why do you make out like im going mad" his response is "because you are".

Does your other half understand how you feel or why you feel that way? It seems like i am fighting a losing battle with everyone and i get the impression people are getting a bit fed up with me now.
I really understand where you're coming from - what's real/what's in your head/is what people are telling you the truth or are they just protecting you? I wish I had the answer. With BDD, I really don't think I was prepared to listen to anything anyone said - they were wrong/blind/lying and I WAS RIGHT. In my head at least. My partner is great. He's a nurse (not MH, lol!), so very open minded and has great people skills. He never judges, just accepts and loves me for who I am. But we have an agreement - I'm obsessed with my skin and he's obsessed with his weight!! His perception is probably distorted, but isn't everyone's? It's subjective - perception is reality and if it's an issue for the individual, then it's real enough. So we accept one another's little idiosyncrasies.
You're other half's response is either a judgement/criticism or (hopefully) a cheeky remark said with love and affection. If the latter, don't take it too personally and be thankful that you have someone who can look past the BDD and love you regardless. Hold on to that - it's desperately valuable. Even if you don't think you're attractive, it sounds like you may have found someone that disagrees with you entirely and that's no bad thing! My partner completely acknowledges that nothing he says will change my mind. But never stops saying positive things anyway and he has no idea how appreciated it is.
 
#8
Hi again. Sorry iv not been on for a few days. My anti depressants have kicked in and stopped me crying constantly but the thoughts about my skin just seem to go from one extreme to the other.

I definatley agree with the whole we are right and everyone is wrong thing. My boyfriend daid to me the other day " has anyone ever said to you that you have a problem with your skin" my answer was no but rather than just feel pleased about that i just had to remark back that i would like to think people wouldn't be so rude and hurtful to say something in the first place.

I havn't been out other than walking the dog all week since i broke up from work last friday and it's starting to become a big habit now. Im supposed to be going on holiday in May which will be our first family holiday abroad but im just dreading it. It don't want to go anywhere.

I try not to look at anu reflective surface when im out but it just seems to draw me in and then spit me out ruining any little good mood i did have. Sometimes i think that this is me for the rest of my life now and whats the point?
 
#9
I have had BDD for quite some time now and it got less over time. But its still there and its just something a have accepted. I do still think though if people say looks dont matter, i just cant take them serious as a person. Thats just such a dishonest lie to me that it makes me sick. Also if people tell me I look good, I still have it that I feel they are liars. Its not that my whole life evolves around it anymore. I can function with it, but it doesn't mean that all of the thoughts surrounding this are gone.
 
#10
I have been hurt today, partly my own ondoing, and it made me feel ugly and worthless again. I havent had this feeling for quite some time. Its always regarding a man that I find good looking,
I feel the need for the approval of my looks. There seems to be not much more to it, as to me thats what men seem to be mostly interested in. Although women also but i dont have to deal with that since I am a straight female. I feel all powerfull and as if life is smiling at me when a man like that give sme attention. But its quite quicly torn apart again. As soon as i feel they are interested in someone else, or just simply when their attention seems to get less, I feel they lied to me and I ts all been pointless. Also i have been rejected by men in the past. All I can think of right now is that i would look super model good looking(although i hear i look good, i always want more, the best) so I can show those men what they have been missing and make them regret their choices. Then i would reject them in return as so they know what it feels like. I know thats is not nice but its the bdd now raging in me its very strong now and i have to let my thoughts out about it.I feel this anger towards this man for likign the looks of another woman it feels like he betrayed me, not in a relationship way but that he said he liked how i looked, it made me feel so good and now i feel like its all lies and that i have to make myself look better to win and get out of it.
 
#11
I'm a 34 y/o guy who just heard this term for the first time the other week. I just wanted to shout you out some solidarity as going through something before it is widely-known, or even NAMMED is really isolating and hard. Good job guy!
 
#12
What confuses me about BDD is, is it about imagined flaws or real ones? Or something that may be temporary/fixable like acne or weight issues? I used to have acne and I obviously didn't like it but I was never too hung up on it because I figured it would go away eventually, which it did.

However if I have certain physical flaws that aren't really fixable and I really hate those flaws and they make me really insecure, that does mean I have BDD? Or does it just means I realise I'm objectively ugly? I don't really get it.
 
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