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Mama_Cakes's avatar

I struggle with a condition called " Body Dysmorphic Disorder" where I view myself as unattractive at times (when others say that I'm fine. Beautiful, in fact). Anyone else have BDD?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9315 points ) February 21st, 2013

Sometimes, I think that I’m hideous. Others say that I am attractive.

It’s a form of mental illness, and I will be receiving therapy for it in a couple of weeks. One thing that it has done, is hinder my life and has prevented me from socializing on many occasions. Which sucks, as I’m a social individual and I like being around people.

Anyhow, this is the first time that I’ve admitted this to anyone here.

Those with BDD, how do you cope?

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33 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Really? There’s a word for that? I didn’t know. How do you know you have it?

I’ve never had a kind thing to say about how I look. There are some very rare secret moments when I look in the mirror and I might be pleased by what I see, but mostly I’m imagining what others would think, and for most of my life, I thought people would look at me and not think I’m attractive.

How can you know, anyway? I mean, I imagine that attractive people have others coming up to them all the time to compliment them. They are having people attracted to them just because of their looks. No one ever told me they liked the way my face or body looked. The best I’ve heard is that I don’‘t look so bad. This is usually in response to me apologizing for how I look.

But since I’ve always felt I had nothing in the looks department, it never really mattered. I could still be social. I just assumed people would like me for other reasons than being good looking. I figured I started at a disadvantage, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

So whether or not I am unattractive, I don’t think I have a problem due to looks. I can overcome any problem, just by being smart enough or funny enough or something like that. There are other ways to earn other people’s interest. But it’s probably different for men compared to women. Men don’t have to be good looking. No one expects us to be good looking. Most men look pretty feeble compared to most women.

So think about that. Whenever you think you look bad, just think how much worse it would be if you were a man!

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I have talked to a therapist about this before. He is the one who mentioned BDD. I have an attractive girlfriend, and have dated attractive people. I have been complimented on my looks quite a bit. It’s just that, I grew up with a father who was focused on appearance. He was critical of my mother, who gained a bit of weight during her pregnancies (she had three kids back to back). Pretty much, he was emotionally and psychologically abusive towards her. A jerk. This is how I grew up. He is still like that now.

Somehow, this has all been stuck in my brain.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’ve never been diagnosed with this, but I think I probably have it as well. I find myself fat and unattractive and constantly battle with this. Everyone around me thinks I’m crazy. It’s just part of who I am. I’m used to dealing with it, and I doubt it’ll ever go away.

ninjacolin's avatar

How to cope?.. I’m not BDD, as far as I know, but I’m certainly less than perfect in some places around my body. The more I age, the more I realize how little it matters.

Have you ever had someone get mad at you for something? Like, really really mad? Have you ever had someone want you to leave the room, perhaps during a fight? Have you ever had someone not want to talk to you?

One thing that helps me deal with insecurities is my realization that I don’t have to make excuses for people. If someone wants me out of their face, they’ll let me know. If someone is displeased with me, they’ll tell me. From your last comment, your father sounds like that kind of person. He would quickly tell someone if HE is displeased with something about them.

But when you measure how many people agree with his opinion.. it’s few and far between, I’m sure you’ve noticed. Right? Wrong? Tell me.

Even if I was 60% uglier, I think people would still want me around. Looks just aren’t important enough of a matter not to want someone around.

Looks might make for great conversation when it comes to what to wear, how to wear it, whether to go to the gym, what to eat, what cosmetics to buy or avoid.. but even if you don’t follow any of that advice and you remain as you are, you still have to weigh in your jokes, your insights, your aura, your history with others, your conversation.. your very presence is valuable beyond measure.

I think the fact is that no one really cares what others look like… until they bring it up.

For example, how many people have even talked about this before you posted this question? It’s your concern that makes it a concern for anyone else. Otherwise, people just kinda wanna accept you.

I’m not saying don’t discuss it! It’s good to discuss it.. and thanks for your post, but understand that no one really cares how you look. And if they do.. like your dad for example, then they are one in a million. Some people are really really picky about the color of tea cup they use… it’s just how some very few people are. They are statistical outliers.

And like you, you have to realize that those kinds of obsessions, like your dad has, are his to bare. And you can help him deal with his obsession over looks if you want. But don’t let his obsession become yours because.. he’s the only one who really seems to care about it for some odd reason.

picante's avatar

I have always been extremely critical of my appearance and really never at peace with it. There’s always something that needs improving. Others’ validation of my beauty generally falls on deaf ears . . . I accept the compliment and I’m grateful for it. But I don’t really believe it.

I’ve heard many women say that aging allowed them to relax a bit around the distorted self-image, but that hasn’t been the case for me. At least not yet.

But this poor self-image of my physcial being is not the whole of me. I have confidence in many other areas, so I don’t obsess about this. When I look at photographs of myself taken thirty years ago, and I remember how unattractive I felt at the time, the image that I now see is startling. How could I not have thought myself beautiful? And what the hell is stopping me from doing so now?

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@picante Yes. All of it.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I also struggled with an eating disorder at one time. To the point to where I got down to 93lbs. So, yeah, it’s mental illness.

tinyfaery's avatar

You do not have BDD, weirdo. That must be diagnosed by a trained therapist or psychiatrist. What you have is insecurity and hypochondria.

BDD people are anorexics or those that feel they shouldn’t have a body part.

It’s ok. We still lurve you.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@tinyfaery You still lurve that I’m a weirdo? haha

DigitalBlue's avatar

This is going to be really long, because this is something that affects me very profoundly and has for most of my life.

I was diagnosed with BDD about a decade ago, though the symptoms were there for many years before. I don’t really know how to explain how I cope, it waxes and wanes naturally. Sometimes I can’t control it, and sometimes it is well controlled on its own.
There is a distinct difference between low self esteem or feeling like you don’t like how you look, and BDD which is an active disorder that affects the ability to function. It’s natural and common to doubt your appearance, to question how attractive we are, if at all. With BDD it consumes your thoughts, it makes it nearly impossible to function in daily life for many of us. Getting dressed to go to lunch with a friend should be a simple task, but for someone with BDD it can take hours…. many, many hours… and sometimes it never comes to manifest. I can’t tell you how many interactions that would be considered stress free and enjoyable by most people I’ve canceled because I can’t bear to be looked at.
I have a hard time explaining the differences to people, because it is such a common feeling. For me, I can literally see something entirely different in the mirror from day to day, even from minute to minute. I have a hard to gauging what I actually look like. I don’t mean “I feel fat today,” I mean I can look in the mirror tomorrow and see 50lbs on my frame that isn’t there.
It’s different for many sufferers, but there are lots of common behaviors and habits. Obsessing over certain features, the skin and nose and weight are at the top of that list (if I remember correctly.) People often pursue plastic surgery, or drastically change their appearance in an attempt to “fix” the perceived flaw. It’s more than just thinking you’re unattractive, there is a really distinct fear of being deformed. I don’t just think that I’m ugly, even on my best days I feel like I don’t look normal. I don’t look like other human beings, I don’t look like a person. It’s like my face and body are a puzzle with pieces that don’t fit together.
Some of my BDD related compulsions are wearing the same “safe” clothes over and over, washed of course, but I have designated outfits that I feel safe in and I can’t deviate from wearing them if I’m going to leave my house. However, the catch is that I have to change my clothes dozens of times before I settle on that outfit. It’s a compulsion, it doesn’t make sense, but the more stressed I am, the more I have to change. It’s a frantic thing, I usually end up with clothes all over my bedroom, throwing things, crying, during bad meltdowns I sometimes resort to self injury like hitting myself or compulsive skin picking. To one degree or another, this happens every time that I get dressed to go anywhere. To the corner store? Meltdown. To the doctor? Meltdown. To a job interview? Odds are that I won’t make it. The more stressful an “event,” the more I feel I’m being judged on my presentation and appearance, the more impossible it becomes for me to get out of my closet.

Other common compulsions that I practice, and that are rampant in BDD sufferers, are avoiding/obsessing over mirrors and cameras. Sometimes I will go through phases where I take hundreds and hundreds of pictures of my face and I analyze them. I try really hard to see what other people see in me, and other times I specifically look for flaws. I do the same with the mirror. I can spend whole days in front of my mirror. I have a meticulously placed mirror in every single room of my home, including my kitchen. I’m not conceited, I’m not self absorbed, I’m terrified. I constantly feel betrayed by the images I see reflected of myself, whether through a lens or in a mirror, and I fight with that constantly. I don’t see the same thing every time, I don’t see what others see, and I often find grossly unflattering images of myself that compound my doubt. I can’t trust my own eyes. It’s scary.

On the flip side, I go through phases where I avoid the exact things compulsively. I will cover my eyes when I’m walking past the bathroom mirror, I will turn my body away from reflective surfaces like windows or pillars in public, I will use sheets or towels to cover reflective surfaces in my home. I’m not a violent person, but if I will physically assault someone who points a camera at me and doesn’t stop when I say not to do it. Fucking seriously, I will hit you if you think it’s cute or funny to take my picture even after I ask you not to do it. You can not fathom the terror that it creates in me if you have never lived this way.

There is evidence to support that BDD is an actual issue in the brain and the ability to process visual stimulation. It’s more than insecurity, it’s a real problem with seeing what is in front of you. It’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t see what I see. It’s almost like being in a fun house mirror, the reflection literally changes right before your eyes.

A new thing that I’m dealing with is, I’m only just learning about it now, but I’ve felt it for a long time, called imposter syndrome? I think (not Googling, not that important.) For a long time when people complimented me, I would take it very simply as I believe that that is their opinion. I believe that people think that I’m beautiful, I really do. I just think that they’re mistaken. Now, it has taken on a life of its own, where I believe that they think that I’m beautiful because I’ve done such a good job of faking it. The makeup, the posturing, the clothing, every meticulous detail of how I present myself is so carefully planned that now I am fooling people into believing that I’m attractive. That they’ll find out that I’m not, and I’ll be ashamed, and they’ll feel betrayed, and the guilt is tremendous. It devours me.

As for getting better? I don’t know. For me, it improves when my overall sense of well being improves. When I have my depression under control, when I have my stress levels under control. It’s always there, but when I am doing well, when I am living well, when I am treating myself like a human being – it fades into the background in a tolerable way. Professionals recommend CBT and medication to control symptoms, but to the best of my knowledge there is no real “cure,” you just learn how to manage it. Or manage whatever triggers it.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@DigitalBlue I appreciate your post. Thank-you.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@tinyfaery Read @DigitalBlue‘s post, thoroughly.

picante's avatar

Thank you for your detailed post, DigitalBlue. You’ve done a great job of describing the disorder.I can absolutely relate to the “imposter syndrome” you describe.

May your overall sense of wellbeing continue to improve!

DigitalBlue's avatar

That was exhausting and also empowering to write out, I have to admit. Hope it is informative, though.

wundayatta's avatar

@DigitalBlue I can relate to many of your feelings, not as they relate to looks, but in other areas of my life, mostly about self-image as seen from the inside. Inadequacy. Never being good enough. Not doing enough. Being a bad friend, spouse, father, employee. Wanting to hurt myself. Inability to do anything for long periods at a time.

It’s not BDD, but it’s related. Just expresses itself differently in a different area of my life. Although I imagine if I focused on how I look, I could get BDD to happen. But I don’t think I’ll try for that. I’d rather just try to stay healthy.

I wish health to you, too. Meds. Coping. None of it is a cure, I guess, but these are mental conditions. They are built into our genes. I think that coping is good enough. We don’t need a cure. We know who we are. We know who we want to be. Learning to cope and learning to not let it get us is plenty good, I think. We don’t need a cure.

Besides, a cure would change us. We wouldn’t’ be who we are. And face it, there are good things to being who we are. Parts that I’ll bet you secretly like. Maybe you know what I’m talking about? There are cores to personality and make us who we think we are and make us do the things we think are truly important. Is the reason you want to look right so you can do something? Something you’re afraid you can’t do? But something you truly believe is important to do?

That’s the struggle. Coping with the bad while keeping the good. That’s why a cure isn’t really the right thing. I don’t think it’s a useful way to think about it. What I think most of us want is to be motivated powerfully to achieve what is important without being disabled by the fear we won’t be good enough to do it.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@wundayatta thanks, I agree. It’s about finding ways to let this be a part of us rather than letting our disorders define us.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Actually, @tinyfaery,this is a little more than you think (for me). I was just talking to N. about it. She said that she sees how I struggle with it and you don’t. You are not around me everyday.

:)

DigitalBlue's avatar

I’m no doctor, so I can’t weigh in on whether or not @Mama_Cakes has it or not, its not my place to decide, but privacy is the nature of the beast. I’ve been doing this for 10–15 years, so my closest friends and family have some awareness of it, but pretty much no one (except perhaps, you jellies) actually knows what I do or go through on a daily basis.
And I actually do try to talk about it, I try to make people aware that this exists, this is a thing, this ruins peoples’ lives. And most people get very good at hiding it.

You can call it whatever you want, but if the way you feel about yourself and/or the way you look is affecting you enough that you’re avoiding socializing or living a normal life, it’s time to see a professional.

flutherother's avatar

The BBC did a documentary on body dysmorphia. One in a hundred suffer from it.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

When my partner and I go out, I get positive attention from the opposite sex (they assume that I’m straight). I just don’t believe sometimes.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia since my early teenage years. I haven’t stepped on a scale in many years, because I think I’m a fat pig (I’m neither). I won’t let anyone take my picture, because that would prove and document how ugly I am (I’m not).

tinyfaery's avatar

I read it. As with any psychosis, it’s not the fact that you do/think certain things it’s about how much it affects your life. You are not overwhelmed by BDD symptoms. I know this for a fact. I’ve seen you with my own eyes. You met 2 strangers and managed to function just fine. If you had hid from us, or were actively in crisis, I would have noticed. You do not have BDD.

Still a weirdo. I like weirdos.

And until you are diagnosed you really shouldn’t say you have BDD. People who suffer from it have serious problems. Seriously.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I guess I have to hope that @tinyfaery likes people with serious problems, as well. ;)

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@tinyfaery I hid it then. I’ve gotten a bit worse since then.

tinyfaery's avatar

Serious problems are fine by me too. It’s those who have no problems that scare me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I get insecure sometimes and think I am hideous, other times I think I look ok, good in fact but not a day goes by when I don’t feel jealous of another woman for their looks and that sometimes causes me to become withdrawn. However, I do not believe I have body dysmorphic disorder. My mother has it and it nearly killed her and was crippling for my brother and I before she managed to get it under control. Maybe a small amount of her problems were passed down to me, I will never be satisfied with the way I look that’s for sure but I think that applies to most (if not all) women to a certain extent and there are days when I am disgusted with the way I look. However, for my mum there is no sometimes about it, she always despised her body, it’s an obsession that consumes everything and it’s only since medical intervention that she is able to live a relatively normal life.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@Leanne1986 How was she treated (medically-speaking)?

janbb's avatar

I think once you get some serious good help with your other insecurities and life issues, your feelings about your body will improve too.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Mama_Cakes Therapy, pills, the norm. Her treatment was on and off for years because she refused to accept that she had a problem, in my mid teens I strongly thought she wouldn’t be with us now. It was only when she met my step dad that she started to want help.

Sharra's avatar

Hi there to you all! Im new here just trying to figure out the best way to use Fluther!
I suffer from BDD and I know to well in how it effects you I have been suffering a good part of my life and now I am an adult it has controlled every part of my life to the point Im housebound due to this. Im here hoping to chat to ppl who may be going through this may be we can off load our difficulties that we face day to day. big hugs to you.

Headhurts's avatar

My doctor tells me this is a co occurring illness of my bpd. I’m not sure if I agree or not. I don’t love myself, so maybe it is. I look in the mirror and see, well, something not great. Is this part of another illness or is this your main diagnosis?

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Mama_Cakes My heart goes out to you. I’ve had severe dysmophia since the age of 11.

It all started when I went from being a skinny kid to a hefty pre-adolescent with a ravenous appetite. The adults in my life were SO cruel—my parents, my schoolteachers, and even the employees at my father’s restaurant were verbally abusive. I was frequently and publicly humiliated.

During the next year, I began menstruating and grew more than 12”. Nature had known exactly what it was doing; it had anticipated an extremely fast and significant growth and maturity spurt, and my body was storing reserves in advance. I became slender again as I grew—I absorbed all the excess weight—and I’ve never been overweight since then.

Yet, the dysmorphia haunts me to this day. No matter how many people tell me I’m attractive or compliment my figure, I avoid mirrors and shun cameras. I just can’t shake it.

When I saw my wedding video, I was stunned. I kept saying, “Do I really look like that? Am I really that thin? That can’t be me.” Even when faced with something undeniable, I kept continued to deny.

I wish I had better advice. Sadly, I’ve never learned how to cope, and I have no tips or helps for anyone else.

MarvinPowell's avatar

Do I have BDD? Sometimes, I guess. The vast majority of women consider me short and unattractive, so I tend to think that’s what my standard physical appearance is. That must be how women see me. Yet, sometimes, every now and then, a girl will say I’m “not so short” or that I’m “handsome.” (I’m only 5’11” with shoes on, by the way.)

It makes no f-cking sense to me! How can most of women call me one thing and then some on rare occasions then be okay with my height, not considering me really small, or suddenly thinking I’m “attractive”? I don’t get it and the confusion drives me f-cking nuts! I almost liked it better when I objectively knew I was ugly and short.

The “average” (a word I utterly detest, by the way) height of a man in America is 5’10 and a half. In bare feet, I’m 5’10 and a quarter, so I am factually short. I gain three-quarters of an inch with shoes on. As I stated in the past, women deem anything under 6’0”-6’1” inadequate for a man’s height, anyway. So I guess it really shouldn’t matter. Short is short; I’m under 6’1”, shoes on or not.

Some say I should be “fine with what I have because it could be worse.” But I am not fine with inadequacy or being “mediocre.” My feelings are my feelings and I cannot simply accept mediocrity or near-failure. I just can’t! I liked it better when I was objectively short and ugly, because then I knew for sure what I was, and how to live life and how talk to single women (with complete apathy, as they aren’t going to give me the time of day anyway, considering.) I had answers. But once a woman in a rare moment says I’m “handsome” or “attractive” or “five-eleven is an okay height for a guy”, it ruins everything. I no longer have answers and my self image is distorted. And “okay?” Who the f-ck wants to be “okay”? Or close to “average”? Like I said, that’s equal to failure, to me. To win is to be above ‘average.’ Or at least, as far away from it, as possible. “Average” is genetically failing. To be a genetic loser.

Shit, I just want to know if I’m short and ugly as I had been lead to believe all my life, or tall and handsome. Its impossible for me to be both. And when the blue f-ck has 5’11” ever been “tall”? I see women my height or taller daily downtown. That completely proves I must be a short male, yet others disagree, because they have very low standards, probably.

Grrrr, I hate subjectiveness when it comes to myself! Its the worst thing in the world to not have answers! I like having solid concrete answers! Especially regarding who I am. I could not bother attempting to talk to women when I was always called ugly/short by every single one of them. Now sometimes on rare occasions, women say I am the opposite, which completely contradicts the other answers, and leaves me confused about my self-image and where I stand.

Well, since every single male friend I have is taller than me and I’ll see at least two women my height or taller than me on the street daily, it’s very clear evidence that I must be short for a man. Women shouldn’t be able to emasculate me and they wouldn’t if I was actually, legitimately tall. 6’1” and up is tall and anything below that is short for all adult men. I can come to a solid conclusion based on that.

But now I’m still confused about my looks. MOST women consider me ugly as sin, yet some may think I’m “handsome?” That’s their words, by the way. That makes no f-cking sense! That’s what really upsets me regarding my self-image. I’m not, nor have ever been “tall, dark, and handsome.” (I even have a light complexion for my ethnicity.) Now some women are saying I am possibly all three. Completely f-cks up my body perception. Leaves me utterly confused. Am I supposed to continue to not give a f-ck about my physical appearance and just accept being a walking satyr? Or am I supposed to care now and act all cocky? Sigh, it’s frustrating.

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