In this blog, I want to tell my story with the ultimate goal of making people realise this is becoming more and more common and to realise what the signals are that you are or someone you care about is also suffering with Body Dysmorphia.
The definition of Body Dysmorphia as taken by the charity “Mind”
‘Body Dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image. You might be given a diagnosis of BDD if you: experience obsessive worries about one or more perceived flaws in your physical appearance; the flaw cannot be seen by others or appears very slight’.
On the 14th April this year whilst filming with a Body Image advert with Lynx, I finally realised I’d been suffering with Body Dysmorphia for a number of years. The prime purpose of the advert was to see people’s opinions on how men are perceived and how they should be. This was the moment where I felt truly empowered to tell people just what I had been feeling for so long inside and why I always felt a dark shadow in my life up until now. Body image was the reason why other areas in my life had been so affected.
After leaving school, I needed a hobby. One day I just had a thought, I wanted to see what a gym was like. I was fixed. Every day without fail I’d turn up, I would read all the magazines, adjusting my diet because of what I read. I’d never miss a day, I started eating the same meals day in day out, I’d neglect my family and friends, just so I would have the peace of mind of knowing what I was eating and when.
For what purpose? There was no purpose; I was chasing a goal that didn’t exist. Chasing the look of the bodybuilders and fitness models on Instagram, Facebook and the magazines
In October 2014, I went on holiday to Vietnam with my girlfriend. It was suppose to be a beautiful week break for us. This was the time where I finally realised what damage anxiety can do, stemming from Body Dysmorphia.
The holiday was consumed by my constant anxiety that I needed to eat every three hours and go the gym every day, even when I knew it wouldn’t be possible. My girlfriend was really excited to try the local food, but I couldn’t enjoy it because of the anxiety, which came from thinking if I eat off schedule or overeat, I’ll lose my muscle and shape. This constant anxiety and worry literally crippled me. At the time of this holiday, I didn’t even realise I was making the one person who should have understood me, disillusioned.
Who goes away and make their loved ones feel awkward by the feeling of not being able to eat out, not being able to enjoy life with their partner due to the constraints of their eating habits. Eating food is a highly sociable occasion, something I was about to realise.
The night where everything dawned on me was where I risked my own life, to get some eggs! There was a flash flood in Nha Trang, the water was up to my waist in dirty sewage water. Sitting in a restaurant, my initial thoughts were where was I going to get my next meal from. I was switched off from the outside world, only thinking in a narrow-minded manner. I went through the flood, with dirty water up to my knees to get some raw eggs for the night.
I knew I had to change.
Some of the feelings of BDD:
The feeling of looking in a mirror and seeing something different
Every day I would look at myself in the mirror, I wanted to see rippling muscles so anything I did see would just disappoint. To me this was normal, I was surrounded by people who would regularly say things like “I just want to be like so and so”. As a naive 16 year old with 4 months gym experience, I didn’t know any better. It got gradually worse to the point where I’d literally grab skin around my chest and pull it wishing it would come off.
Trying everything under the sun to get that dream body!
Every diet plan, every supplement, steroids, every gym plan, different training times, training up to three times a day. I did it. The gym consumed my life up until the age of 20. For four years, it took over my life. I woke up thinking about the gym; I went to sleep thinking about the gym.
When you’re in the state of mind that you will do anything to get a dream physique, you find yourself constantly analysing what you look like on a almost daily basis, weighing yourself everyday, judging yourself by the amount of muscle on a body part, body fat, which always looks better at certain parts of the day and in different lighting schemes. This empowers you to change your routine or diet straight away, which is a recipe for disaster! (more about that another time)
Skipping social occasions
After speaking to many sufferers of Body Dysmorphia, one of the biggest trends is avoiding social occasions at all costs. The reasons for avoiding social occasions are different on case by case basis, but the usual reasons are: lack of self esteem, having to eat at certain times, fear of mockery if you don’t partake in certain activities (I.E. alcohol) due to how you feel about your body and if you don’t do a certain thing IE eating every 3 hours if you are a bodybuilder.
If you or a loved one, suspect you may have Body Dysmorphia please share this, any comments greatly received.