Body Image and dysmorphia
There is a difference between negative body image and dysmorphia but the line is very thin. Negative body image affects both men and women of all shapes, sizes, color etc…The more you worry about your body and the more obsessed you are with specific body (your thighs, “rolls” on belly, larger hips…) parts, eventually it can lead to body dysmorphia.
It is interesting that a lot of people with body dysmorphia seem to actually “fit” the society standards of beauty, but for them, their flaws are real even if we don’t see them. Telling them not to worry or that they look “just fine” can completely invalidate their feelings and the idea that if their body would change it would be a bad thing (I spoke recently on one of my posts that our bodies are changing and it is a natural occurrence but for the people around us, it is always a potential “interesting” topic to discuss why we have changed.) It is as if their body looks fine NOW but if it would change, then maybe it wouldn’t be so fine after all.
Body image issues root cause is not always known but therapists do connect it with: sudden weight loss or weight gain, childhood trauma, negative body comments growing up…
Here are some signs of body dysmorphia:
- Fixation on a body part that is flawed- they absolutely want to remove it, change it, suppress it
- Figuring out ways how to “hide” the flawed part of the body at all cost
- Trying to fix the “flaw” by under-eating, over exercising
- Turning to plastic surgery to remove the “flaw”
- Constantly looking themselves in the mirror
- Touching, pinching, measuring, obsessively looking how does the “flaw” look these days
- Some avoid mirrors at all cost, the disgust with what they see is too triggering
- Avoidance of social setting where they could expose themselves (beach party for example)
- Comparing their bodies to others
- Asking for opinion about their body from friends and family
- Constantly thinking about their appearance and whether others can see the “flawed” body part
- Anxiety, low self-esteem, low self-worth
- Feeling of disgust about their body
The best you can do is observe, listen, don’t judge and try to refer them to a therapist who specializes in body image issues and disordered eating.