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When Low Self-Esteem Might Be Something Far Worse


March 1, 2018

Many of us have that one area of our bodies we wish was better or different. Whether it is our nose, stomach, chin, or some other body part, flaws periodically nag at us from the mirror. We might choose makeup or clothing to diminish how noticeable such flaws appear.

Minor self-esteem issues such as these are not uncommon. However, there are times when that annoyance gives way to something more. Irrational, compulsive, harmful obsession with a perceived flaw is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) or dysmorphophobia.

What Is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is a destructive hyper-focus on a flaw or perceived abnormality. Typically, the anomaly is very minor. Sometimes it may not even exist, except in the sufferer’s mind. As such, Body dysmorphia is far more than just an issue with self-worth.

Those who suffer from BDD cannot see past the flaw on which they are fixated. It becomes the hallmark by which their lives are measured, to the detriment of everything else.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

Many of the symptoms of BDD, on the surface, sound like poor self-esteem. The primary difference is the time devoted to and the impact such efforts have on day-to-day life.

Some symptoms include:

  • Avoiding social interactions (work, school, public spaces)
  • Spending excessive time each day trying to hide/cover the flaw
  • Compulsively checking mirrors to monitor the defect (or avoiding mirrors entirely)
  • Significant emotional distress that leads to an inability to function
  • Believes others are mocking, staring, or otherwise focusing on the flaw

Living with Body Dysmorphia

BDD impacts every aspect of daily life. Imagine feeling so self-conscience about your nose that you cannot bear to be seen in public. Imagine thinking that no one will ever love you, promote you at work, or see your talents because of your “ugliness.” What if you thought people were making fun of the shape of your eyebrows or the way your ears sit on your head every time you went to the grocery store? These are the kinds of torments people with body dysmorphia have to deal with daily.

If you or your friend exhibit the above symptoms, consider taking a friend and going to a counselor. BDD is a serious issue that can transform into eating disorders and other types of self-harm, but it can be treated.

No one has the perfect body—but we need to be able to engage our flaws in a healthy way, without hatred. Only then can we seek to improve ourselves constructively (not destructively).


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