Most of us have, at some point, thought negatively about our physical appearance. It’s okay. We all have days where we wake up feeling like crap and not our usual flawless selves. However, for those who consistently obsess over their bodies and physical appearance, it’s usually indicative of a far more serious problem. The medical term for it is “body dysmorphic disorder.”
According to dietitian and clinical nutritionist Nia Rennix of The Rennix Weigh—a nutrition and wellness company—body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is when someone has an obsessive focus on a perceived defect in their appearance.
“Individuals who suffer from this condition can dislike any part of their body,” Rennix tells ESSENCE. “As a nutritionist, I see more individuals who often find issue with their stomach, chest, buttocks and hips. I have even worked with athletes and bodybuilders who suffer with BDD.”
Naturally, if athletes and bodybuilders, who are forced to live healthy and take their care of bodies, can succumb to body dysmorphia, certainly the average woman who is bombarded with harmful body-image ideas and picture-perfect selfies can become victims of the disorder.
“Being obsessed with body imperfections or appearance flaws can unfortunately lead to depression or eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia,” says Rennix.
Rennix adds that social media plays a vital role in one’s self-perception.
“Many use the pictures they see online as the standard beauty for what they should look like,” states Rennix. “What they fail to realize is that there are so many mobile apps and computer programs that alter the appearance of these people to make them look perfect, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Individuals who suffer from BDD compare themselves to what they think perfection looks like, but in reality there is no such thing.”
If you’re worried that you or a friend might be suffering from body dysmorphia, Rennix advises of these seven warning signs that, when left unchecked or untreated, can lead to serious mental health problems down the line.
1. A person with BDD will be so concerned with their appearance or perceived defect that it may cause them to tense up and not be able to carry out their regular daily routines.
2. Avoidance of work, school and social activities
3. If you find yourself feeling depressed about your perceived imperfections, whether real or made up, you could be suffering from BDD. Individuals with BDD can become depressed from not being able to achieve their ideal image of perfection, and they may fixate on these flaws for hours daily. In addition to not being able to control their negative thoughts, BDD victims don’t believe people when they say they look fine.
4. Wanting to see a cosmetic surgeon
5. This involves being disgusted with your flaws and not being able to “fix” whatever physical issues you may think you have. Rennix even states that she’s had clients become so disgusted with their appearance or size of their stomach or thighs that they isolate themselves from social situation.
6. Individuals with BDD are so self-aware of their flaws that they can close themselves out ot the rest of the world. It’s hard for them to focus on anything, and this obsession can last four hours or an entire day, which can often lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, avoidance of social situations, etc.
7. Always looking in the mirror
Of course, for more serious cases, Rennix recommends adults seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist for intensive treatment therapies. However, for milder forms of body image concerns or distortions, Rennix suggests food and wellness journaling, along with visualization techniques, which can help create a detailed image of desired outcomes.