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In this article, I will discuss my personal thoughts on living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and how this has often held me back from opportunities. I will then cover why I believe social media only exacerbates incidence of poor self–image.

What is BDD?

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition characterised by the persistent belief that the affected is ugly, flawed, and deficient. The person with a diagnosis believes that their appearance must be fixed (with cosmetics, rituals, and in extreme cases, surgery/treatments). This can extend to feelings of distress regarding personality ‘flaws’ too. People affected may spend hours on their appearance, trying to make aspects of their face and body ‘right’.

The stigma surrounding BDD often centres on it being a ‘condition of vanity’ or a trivial issue. This is false. Causes of BDD include predisposition (due to bullying, societal pressures, family history); differences in perception, which are observable on brain scans, and co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or an eating disorder.

My personal experiences

One of my main concerns revolves around covering up my fading acne scars. I had moderate acne when I was younger and have developed a complicated routine for caring for my acne at night and covering it up in the morning. Friends and family will tell me it is no longer noticeable but after being ridiculed at school, I cannot leave it alone.

I also hold concerns regarding my weight, facial features, body shape and the paleness of my skin.

Living with body dysmorphic disorder can feel engulfing. There is rarely relief from the constant barrage of thoughts. It has negatively affected my social life, dating life, and feelings of self-worth as I go through my daily life.

Socialising can be very tiring on its own due to my anxiety, even though I am generally an outgoing person. I believe my ADHD and BDD are closely connected as I try my best to be ‘socially acceptable’ and ensure my weaknesses do not show through. My self-esteem is already low at times due to being attacked for my ADHD symptoms.

I often avoid social situations and rarely go out on dates. When I do, my anxiety is all-encompassing, and I may go the bathroom multiple times to perform ‘rituals’ where I re– do makeup and ensure I still look flawless.

The influence of social media

This brings me to discussing social media’s influence. We are all aware that images online are often highly doctored. Even videos can now be edited to include filters. Online, people spend a lot of time on their appearance before posting anything. Regular exposure to filtered images leads us to comparison and feeling that we do not meet expected standards. Beauty standards cannot be avoided completely as even advertisements seem to portray perfect looking individuals. This expectation is prevalent in all forms of media.

My strategies

To counter this, I limit my social media usage. I do not post very often on Instagram. To use these apps regularly would simply feed the critical voice in my head and further my distress. I also do not watch certain types of TV shows where those involved focus excessively on their appearance or have been altered to look flawless (Love Island is particularly toxic, as an example).

A recent example of intervening to help myself would be limiting checking my dating app profiles to twice a week. Using them can be a negative experience for me as it allows me to obsess over the photos I upload and view others’ images, which often seemed staged. Knowing people could be studying my profile makes me feel vulnerable and I have made the executive decision to be more strict about my swiping.

The above steps have been positive for me as it has forced me to put myself out there and socialise more in person. Instead of picking up my phone when I feel lonely, I have had to contact ‘real’ people or go out to a social group/meet up. This has been a step forward in addressing my problem alongside continuing to attend therapy.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a life – long condition but taking steps to manage my distress by restricting social media makes my day-to-day life easier to navigate; allowing me moments of peace.


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