Body Dysmorphia: Overcoming the Struggle with Body Image

Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is a mental health condition that affects how individuals perceive their physical appearance. It can have a profound impact on their thoughts, emotions, and daily functioning. Summertime happens to increase the negative effects caused by BDD, but we are here to help you.

What is Body Dysmorphia, and How Does it Affect Someone?

According to Jamie Fowles, a Weight Management APP at Stormont Vail Health, "BDD is a mental health condition that causes you to view your own physical appearance unfairly. The thoughts and feelings related to your appearance can consume you and affect your thoughts and actions. Eventually, BDD can negatively impact your quality of life and how you feel about yourself."

Fowles is an expert on this subject matter at Stormont Vail, but not only because of her extensive education.

"I have struggled with body dysmorphia issues myself after bariatric surgery. A year ago, I had a gastric bypass and lost 92 pounds. I am so proud of myself for making this change and getting healthier for myself, my family, and my two girls. However, there are days I look in the mirror and still see the heavier me."

Patients will often experience good days and bad days when it comes to how they view themselves in a kind light. However, for people experiencing this condition like Jamie Fowles, it can be extremely helpful to talk it through with a counselor and close family members you can rely on.

Jamie Fowles after losing 92 pounds.
"At first, I couldn't understand why I would see this image in the mirror, but then I started to understand that this was body dysmorphia, and my brain was giving me a different image of my body than what was there.”

Some of the Most Common BDD Effects:

  • ­Spending excessive amounts of time thinking about at least one thing about your body you think is a "flaw" or "defect"
  • Feeling compelled to repeatedly look at or check your appearance
  • Feeling fear or anxiety because you think others are staring, judging, or making fun of the things you don't like about your body or appearance
  • Feeling shame or disgust about your body or appearance
  • Avoiding situations where people might notice the things you don't like about yourself

How Common is Body Dysmorphia and Who Can Experience It?

It’s estimated that body dysmorphia, in some form, will affect around 1 in 100 people. In the medical weight management program at Stormont Vail, our providers frequently see patients with body dysmorphia who view flaws in their appearance – resulting in a struggle with anxiety and fear.

Fowles further adds, "I also see body dysmorphia in our post-bariatric surgery population as well. However, it is much different. With post-bariatric surgery, the patients generally have had significant weight loss, but they still see the person they were before the weight loss in themselves.”

For example, a patient could lose 100 pounds in a year following bariatric surgery; however, when looking in the mirror, will still see the person they were before they lost the 100 pounds. Or they will have an unhealthy amount of anxiety and fear of gaining that weight back if the scale does not stay at exactly the same number.

Jamie Fowles, APRN

Combatting Body Dysmorphia: Strategies for Overcoming the Struggle

How can we combat this mental health condition from continuing to affect us? Getting help from others is the best way to help combat body dysmorphia. It also helps immensely to confide in your loved ones about what you’re going through. Having someone there to help remind you of what’s important and what they see in you can make a huge difference.

If you are struggling with weight loss issues and feel this is part of your body image decline, the Stormont Vail Health Weight Management Team is ready to help make the healthy changes needed to improve overall health, increase energy, and help with weight loss efforts.

Fowles continues, "If you have had bariatric surgery in the past or are considering it, our team is also ready to help you make these changes in a healthy and successful way!”

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