Body dysmorphia is a common psychiatric disorder that is the underlying cause of numerous medical conditions consistent with but distinct from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) as “a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it.” It is distinguishable from the self-perception aberration of anorexia nervosa in that anorexics perceive themselves as fat overall, even when they are extremely skinny, whereas dysmorphic disorder involves a repetitive focus on a specific perceived flaw in your physical appearance, such as your nose or the shape of your hips.
An interesting example of this psychiatric problem can be illustrated anecdotally through the story of a personal training client of mine a few years back who was absolutely convinced that no matter how much mass he added to his biceps and triceps, he saw his upper arms as never being “big enough”. Eventually, his arms got up to over 20″ in diameter, which was glaringly disproportionate with the rest of his body (he had skinny legs). The worst part of this is that he was taking large doses of anabolic steroids to fuel his dysmorphic obsession, which eventually resulted in liver cirrhosis. Sadly, I heard recently from a former colleague that he is now on a liver transplant wait list. As you can see from my story, what we see in the mirror versus what others see when they look at us, can have devastating health implications, even the lesser-discussed conditions such as body dysmorphia.
If you think that maybe you think too much about a specific part of your body, please don’t go down the ‘Michael Jackson rabbit hole’. Seek out the help of a mental health professional, without the slightest hint of shame or hesitation. Trust me when I say that all of us have some psychiatric issue that we’re dealing with, whether we recognize it or not, whether we admit it or not. In a crazy world, it’s perfectly normal to go just a little bit crazy, as long as your craziness doesn’t end up damaging your health!