Most of us ladies (and perhaps a few men) have an issue with some part of our body. I, for one, would at least consider the idea of putting in an order for a pert Hollywood-style bottom, with accompanying boobies that face the right direction. Almost all the women I know can name a body part that they think could do with some renovation. Even the young ones with everything in the right place! These ideas, I think, are pretty normal considering we are constantly bombarded by subliminal messages about the ‘perfect’ body. I mean, if we go out and zombie-shop for washing powders, designer clothes and luxury cars because we’ve been brain-washed by the media, why wouldn’t we also start hankering for a Beyonce bottom, Kim Kardashian cheekbones or a Daniel Craig six-pack? Those of us with healthy outlooks are able to see the folly in our thinking, and while ‘perfection’ assaults us in our daily lives, we can resignedly accept our perfectly normal lumps and bumps without them spoiling our day. It’s only when we become preoccupied with what we perceive to be our ‘physical defects’, that we have a serious problem.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition associated with body image. With BDD people become
preoccupied with imagined or slight defects in their appearance, allowing those thoughts to cause significant distress and disturb one’s daily functioning. Because of its implications, the disorder is also called ‘imagined ugliness’ or ‘dysmorphophobia’, which is the fear of having a deformity. Due to the anxiety associated with their ‘defects’ being seen by others, people with BDD may go to great lengths to avoid social situations. When they are obliged to go out and socialize, they are inclined to mask the perceived flaw with clothes arranged to conceal; they wear heavy make-up and hairstyles that help to hide a ‘defect’. Often, these people are unable to work and so live very isolated lives accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame.
BDD is characterized by the following behaviours:
- constant obsession with the perceived defect
- endlessly seeking reassurance about their appearance
- always feeling their skin with their fingers to check the ‘flaw’
- total belief that others notice the ‘flaws’ and talk about them
- persistent monitoring of their appearance through mirrors or reflective surfaces
- obsession with the ‘right’ hairstyle
- frequent cosmetic procedures
- refusal to have photographs taken
- picking of skin to make it smooth
- relentless comparison with others.
Currently, treatment consists of ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’:
- The patient ventures into social situations without covering up the perceived ‘defect.’
- The patient removes mirrors, covers skin areas that the patient touches and does not use make-up.
- The therapist attempts to assist the patient in changing their false beliefs about their appearance.
The cause of this condition is unknown to the medical profession, though it is obvious to most of us that these matters are related to deeply buried, very serious issues with our self-esteem and self-worth. A difficult emotional condition to deal with, healing is a life-time journey. In my opinion, therapy needs to also be directed at the individual’s sense of belonging in the world and their connection to their own purpose and meaning of being alive.
Famous BDD sufferers
A person famous for having BDD is millionaire socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein. It is rumoured that she has spent over $4,000,000 on cosmetic surgery over the years, trying to ‘fix’ what was ‘wrong’.
According to an online Harvard Medical School article, ‘It is no secret that some celebrities may suffer from BDD. In fact, mental health experts have alluded to the fact that they have treated celebrities for BDD but could not share any names, mentioning that patients typically opt to keep their disorder a secret.
Although diagnoses have not been confirmed, some speculate that stars like Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe might have suffered from BDD. Obtaining over 30 plastic surgeries, and seldom showing his face without makeup, experts propose that Jackson suffered from the body image disorder. Monroe’s stylist believed that her obsessions with the mirror were a form of body dysmorphia through which Monroe sought to constantly examine and change her face. Most recently in the news for undergoing ten cosmetic surgeries in one day, Heidi Montag (below) may also suffer from BDD.
One last thought for the rest of us…..