Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is often called the ‘imagined ugliness’ disorder. It was formerly known as Dysmorphophobia and is an anxiety disorder whereby a person is abnormally preoccupied with an imagined or slight defect in their physical appearance. This is something I have had to deal with since I started my weight loss journey and began to see the difference in my body and face.
Although it was wonderful that I was losing the weight, I was stuck in that weird little world where I was honestly of the mindset that I was fine, nothing was wrong. I was over 26 stone… I was very good at believing my own lies it seemed. But believe it I did.
But as those lbs or kgs started to drop from my body, I began to notice my body more than I ever had before and I was not happy. I saw the fat on my face, the fat on my arms and legs and my stomach. I couldn’t but see this big gut attached to my body. As previous spoken about, I couldn’t help see how clothes fitted on me even as the weight dropped. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be happy with getting healthier and slimmer? What wasn’t clicking?
When I first searched for Body Dysmorphic Disorder on my favourite search engine or anything related to BDD, I found almost all of the links or images were aiming themselves towards women. There was (happily less so now) this common misconception that this mainly affected women. That the majority of those affected were women who had concerns and then issues with their appearance and just some men had BDD. But why was this? Why could I not find anything to help me relate to what I was going through on my gender? I began to think that I had an issue that only girls had. It took a lot of deep diving to find guys talking about the subject and even then, the only male posts about this subject were bodybuilding related. Which to me is fair. With bodybuilding you are trying to be as symmetrical as possible, you are most likely trying to get your body in a certain way for people to admire you in an amateur or professional environment. I was just fat and trying to lose weight, so I had next to no one to truly relate to that was my gender.
Whether or not this is because men are afraid to admit that they have an issue with their appearance or what they think is an issue to others I am not sure. I just know from personal experience I never admitted anything to anyone because I was ashamed of being overweight and I merely thought that it was because I had finally realised I was fat and needed to change. Who admits to that? Is it a machismo thing? Guys are stupid and too proud to admit their failings and especially about something as personal as their appearance.
Here are some things that happened to me at my worst.
Checking out issues and trying to dodge reflections
As I have spoken about before, I would start to check myself out in any reflection possible. I would have people make little jokes that because I was losing weight I was becoming a little vain about my appearance because I was looking at my reflection in the mirror and then fussing about my clothes or my hair and face. I wasn’t fussing, I was stressing. I saw so many issues that I would check my reflection in almost every shop window. Every. One. I found that I had to walk a certain way to University every day that involved passing as few windows and shop windows as possible as I would get distressed at how I looked or I would waste an extra 5 minutes trying to correct the flaw I thought I had. I would walk past shop windows sucking in my stomach thinking that if I saw myself without as much of a belly that I could be pleased with how I looked. Nope, foolish Scott.
Excessive dieting or exercising
Again I have mentioned this previously, but I would (and still occasionally now I have put some weight back on) weight myself twice or more times I day. I would almost try to divert my worries and anxieties about how I looked at my weight. Push it to the figures. This then led to me exercising myself to exhaustion and feeling fantastic about it. My brain was tricking me into exercising for 4 or more hours a day to get the weight down. If I weighed myself in the evening and I was less, the same or just 1lb more than I was that morning I would be pleased with my effort. But, if I wasn’t, I would be running to get my gear on and I would hit the road and go for a 10km run. My running greatly improved, but mentally I knew I was struggling and when people began to ask how I was losing the weight as they were impressed. I would tell them and I would be very confused as to why I was receiving concerned faces back at me. Wasn’t this normal? Should you not focus on your weight this much and aim to lose weight continually.
The only aspect I found that I never truly related to was excessive dieting. I would eat far healthier (less junk) and wouldn’t dodge meals etc. I merely got focussed on the exercise aspect of my life.
Being secretive and asking for reassurance
If people asked me how I was, I would say fine or good and then immediately talk about running or my weight loss as then I knew I would get positive reinforcement from people telling me how great I was looking recently and how pleased they were for me. It took a hell of a long time for me to actually admit how I was getting my results. I would usually just say, eating better and exercising and say what machines or moves I was doing. Not mentioning the length of time I was doing it for. I would then resort to continue posting on social media about what I was doing with a smirk on my face. Trying to show people how happy and comfortable I was about what I was doing, how hard I was working. Needing, practically begging for positive reassurance. It was what brought me to Instagram, getting those likes from strangers is what led me to keep posting and adding loads of hashtags to get more likes so more people could see me.
Anxious around others
With my obsessive nature with exercise, I found I was running for up to 13 miles BEFORE work and then going to the gym after. Why? Because I knew I would be serving hundreds of people and I needed to try and be as slim as possible for myself to be around all these strangers. They wouldn’t know me, but I would be watching them in case they were looking at me. All of my movements would be methodical in a way that I wouldn’t look bad. I would be so anxious as to what these people thought about me that I would make sure that I was working behind a counter to cover myself up.
My love for waistcoats came around when I was overweight as I was upset at how I looked and tried to cover stomach up with a waistcoat. I thought I was okay as I started to lose weight, but soon I was buying even more waistcoats as I loved how it covered me and make me look thinner as I was practically using it as a male corset to suck everything in. I would wear scarfs and coats all the time. Hide that nonsense from every one Scott!
What I did next
I won’t go into full detail about what I did, but one of the main things that helped me get better was obtaining an exercise book that allowed me to go back and work on it as much as possible. I spoke more openly about how I was feeling about myself around my support crew. I was honest with myself and I knew I had to be.
To bring it all back to the male perspective of BDD, I hope in the future that articles are more even in how it affects both genders as there is no difference in how it affects a male or female. The only difference regarding BDD is how it is affecting you or what the cause is. Is it affecting you because you are cautious and anxious about your face/hair or your body or all of the above? That is the difference. Happily, this is changing and more awareness is being presented to guys as it is going hand in hand with male body issues.
If you are struggling with BDD or think you know someone who is, please look up someone to talk to. There are great organisations out there so don’t wait and go too far down that rabbit hole.
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