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The Connection Between Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Low Self-Esteem

By HERWriter
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the link between body dysmorphic disorders and low self esteem Hemera/Thinkstock

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)."

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June 18, 2015 - 11:11am
EmpowHER Guest

O my goodness, I have this! I used to be very confident in my own skin. I have always struggled with my weight but, it always seemed to bother my mom more than it bothered me. I am who I am. At least that was my old way of thinking. In 2003 I was diagnosed with graves disease and over the past 2 years my spirit has declined. I can't even work anymore and I haven't for about 2 years. I have dealt with alot of stress having a child who is ODD and ADHD poses in a challenge itself. All of a sudden I started pulling out my hair! I don't understand why I do I had great hair. Then everything started when I had saw an old family friend who had no idea who I was until he heard my voice! Then I would start to notice any pictures that I was in were horrible! I looked like an alien or something. Then I was grocery shopping and a little boy says to his mom that girl is freaky look at her eyes! I do take forever to get myself ready to go anywhere. I absolutly hate to be around people! I do look like a freak! I was going to therapy but, felt it wasn't often enough. they could only see me maybe once a month, I wanted to be seen every day! I did leave out that over these past 2 years that my levels have been on a rollercoaster! That doesn't help! I hate who I have become. I tell my husband all the time I just want my life back, I just want to feel normal again!

April 27, 2012 - 5:48am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.