In the current age of social media, negative self-image is more prominent than ever. Even with the media consciously promoting body positivity and health-at-every-size initiatives, many are still negatively affected when it comes to body comparison and unrealistic body standards.
While it’s normal to occasionally feel insecure about our bodies, it can become a problem when we obsess or fixate over these perceived flaws. Individuals who suffer from this may be dealing with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), commonly known as body dysmorphia.
Given their similarity, body dysmorphia commonly affects many of those with different types of eating disorders. Let’s talk more about what body dysmorphic disorder is and some of the best self-care practices for coping with body dysmorphia.
Here’s what to expect:
- What is Body Dysmorphia? – A Brief Overview
- Common Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia
- Best Self-Care Practices for Coping with Body Dysmorphia
- Seeking Professional Help
- Avoiding Self-Isolation
- Other Self-Care Tips
- How to Get Started On Your Healing Journey
What is Body Dysmorphia?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines body dysmorphic disorder as a ‘preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance.’ These concerns about one’s appearance are usually rooted in body weight, especially for those with an eating disorder. However, they can also encompass heightened concerns and insecurities about things like hair and skin.
Body dysmorphia encompasses repetitive, excessive worry with one or more self-perceived flaws. Many people dealing with this condition often display obsessive behaviors in regard to their bodies. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to ‘body check’ their self-perceived problem area(s). This usually takes place by excessively checking the mirror and touching problem areas with hands.
Common symptoms of body dysmorphia may include:
- Spending excessive amounts of time fixating or thinking about part(s) of your body you think is a ‘defect’
- Checking the mirror repeatedly
- Avoiding social interaction due to insecurities
- Seeking reassurance from others about your perceived flaws
- Changing your appearance frequently (changing your hairstyle, fashion sense, tanning more, etc.)
- Attempting to hide perceived flaws (with makeup, clothing, etc.)
Best Self-Care Practices for Coping with Body Dysmorphia
Living with body dysmorphia can be a huge challenge, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone. A huge misconception about body dysmorphia and other mental health conditions is that full recovery isn’t possible – this is not the case. The reality is that, with the right tools and resources, anyone can make positive life changes and achieve full recovery. Let’s discuss some of the best self-care practices for healthily coping with body dysmorphia.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling with body dysmorphia, getting support from a trusted professional is the most effective course of action. Getting treatment can involve therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Treatment can help you process emotions and discover the cause(s) of your negative self-image. Plus, it can help you gain key tools and techniques that allow you to be successful in your healing journey.
At VERY, we provide virtual, evidence-based care for individuals with eating disorders. If you’re dealing with body dysmorphia as a part of your eating disorder or disordered eating habits, our mental health professionals can help provide you with the support you need to get on the right track to recovery.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about how VERY can best support your recovery journey.
The very nature of body dysmorphia is feeling a heightened, consistent sense of insecurity about a perceived flaw. So it’s not a surprise that many people dealing with this condition as well as eating disorders tend to self-isolate.
However, self-isolation can actually make these negative emotions worse. According to the American Psychological Association, social isolation can raise one’s level of stress and even increase the likelihood of engaging in unhealthy habits.
Though it seems easier said than done, try leaning on friends and family for support. During times when you’re feeling insecure or down about your appearance, they can help lift you up and help you feel less alone.
Journaling is one of the best ways to freely express your feelings and emotions without the fear of any external judgment. It’s also particularly helpful for those who engage in harmful behaviors related to body image, as getting thoughts down on paper can help alleviate feelings of distress or anxiety.
Journaling also helps you to become aware of common patterns of thoughts or behaviors you may not have recognized. In turn, it can help you identify when your future thinking begins heading in a negative or unhealthy direction.
Free-hand journaling is the easiest method, as it consists of writing out whatever comes to mind with no prompt or structure. However, if you struggle with knowing what to journal about, there are plenty of prompts available that can spark thoughts and ideas.
Another effective self-care practice for coping with body dysmorphia is meditation. Simply put, meditation allows you to stay in the present moment instead of focusing on the past or the future. Practicing meditation is proven to reduce levels of anxiety and depression which may lead to a pattern of more positive thinking.
While there are tons of meditation techniques out there to try, the easiest way to start (especially for beginners) is by doing a full-body scan. To do this, you’ll want to find a quiet location where you can get comfortable. As you take deep breaths in and out, slowly pay attention to the parts of your body and bodily sensations gradually from feet to head.
By mentally scanning your entire body, you’re able to bring awareness to your most present self. By doing this, you can hopefully start to disconnect the negative thoughts surrounding body image.
Other Self-Care Tips
Other than professional help, there are a plethora of self-care tips and techniques to help you cope with a negative self-image. It’s important to note that these practices are most successful when combined with therapy and/or medication.
Besides what we’ve listed above, here are some more self-care practices that may help you cope with body dysmorphia:
- Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones
- Finding a healthy, gentle exercise routine
- Staying properly hydrated
- Sticking to a proper sleep schedule
- Expressing gratitude for your body
- Listening to relaxing, happy music
- Seeking a support group
Living with body dysmorphia can be emotionally exhausting for many people, and seeking help is often easier said than done. The important thing to remember is that recovery is not linear.
Everyone’s healing journey looks different, and oftentimes healing happens over a long span of time. So, taking small steps in the right direction – like going to therapy – is the best thing you can do to have a successful recovery down the line.
If you’re currently struggling with body dysmorphia, you don’t have to go through it alone. At VERY, we have trusted mental health professionals who can support you in your healing journey.
Schedule a free consultation to see how VERY can help support you along your path to recovery – because you deserve it!