We live in a society and culture that is constantly telling us that we are not good enough the way we are. We’re too fat or too skinny.
Our skin isn’t smooth enough, our pores are too big and we have too many wrinkles and blemishes. We need to have whiter teeth and shinier hair.
If we’re being told every day that we don’t look attractive enough naturally and need to fix certain parts of our bodies to be acceptable, it might start to become a challenge for people to have a healthy self-esteem.
And if many people are struggling with self-esteem issues, it can be difficult to draw the line between normal body image concerns and mental illnesses like body dysmorphic disorder.
For example, if I can hold down a full-time job and have a decent social life, but I think every day about how disgusting my stomach looks, and stare at my stomach every time I walk by a mirror or window and think about how much better I would look with a thinner stomach, is that normal?
Is it normal to feel so negatively toward certain body parts, yet still be able to get through life (maybe dragging a little)?
Is it only a disorder when you’re unable to work and have relationships with other people because of that preoccupation? Experts explain the link between low self-esteem and body dysmorphic disorder, and the differences that separate the two.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is officially defined as “a preoccupation with a defect in appearance,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). The manual has three major requirements in order for a person to be considered to have BDD:
1) “The defect is either imagined, or, if a slight physical anomaly is present, the individual’s concern is markedly excessive.”
2) “The preoccupation must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
3) “The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., dissatisfaction with body shape and size in Anorexia Nervosa)."