Body Dysmorphia – A Case of Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Spoilt banana in mirror representing body dysmorphia

Understanding Body Dysmorphia: Strategies to Overcome Negative Self-Image

In the vast expanse of mental health challenges, body dysmorphia stands out as a particularly insidious foe. It whispers lies into the ears of its victims, painting their reflections with a brush soaked in distortion and negativity. This condition spans the gamut of ages, from the fragile teenage years, ripe with insecurities, to the later stages of life, where one might assume such concerns would fade. Yet, they persist, proving that body dysmorphia does not discriminate.

My own battle with body dysmorphia is no secret. The teenage years and the tumultuous time that followed were marred by anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and an unrelenting addiction to exercise. These experiences, though harrowing, equipped me with a radar finely tuned to the signs of body dysmorphia in others. It’s a condition that, once recognised, demands attention and care.

The Reality of Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia morphs the mirror’s reflection into an enemy, turning self-perception into a battleground where reality is often the first casualty. It’s characterised by obsessive thoughts about perceived flaws in one’s appearance—flaws that are either minor or nonexistent in the eyes of others. This condition is more than skin deep; it’s a complex psychological issue that can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Personal Journey Through the Lens of Body Dysmorphia

Reflecting on my journey, I recognise negative self-talk patterns that once dominated my thoughts. These patterns are not unique to me; they are shared by many who suffer in silence. Recognising these thoughts’ hold on your life is the first step toward reclaiming your mental space. For me, therapy was a turning point, providing the tools to challenge and change the narrative of self-criticism that had taken root. Additionally, staying one with my breath, allows me to stop the ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ before it takes hold. I put to good use my practice of Buteyko Breathing.

Understanding the Root Causes

The origins of body dysmorphia are as complex as the condition itself, often rooted in a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Social media and societal beauty standards play a significant role, bombarding individuals with unrealistic images and expectations. The comparison trap is a dangerous pitfall, leading many to self-loathing and despair.

4 Strategies to Overcome Negative Self-Image

  1. Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: Embracing mindfulness means being present with your thoughts without judgment. It’s about observing your negative self-talk as an outsider, recognising its presence but not allowing it to control your emotions or self-worth. Easier said than done, however, self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend in distress.
  1. Reality Check: When body dysmorphia whispers its lies to you, grounding yourself in reality is vital. Know that when you are stressed or troubled, your perception of yourself will falter, and you are more likely to view yourself negatively. Remind yourself that this is your ‘Achilles’ heel’ or weak spot, and that the negative thoughts are not a reflection of reality.
  1. Breathing Techniques: Turning to focused breathing can be a lifeline at times like this.  The simple three by three (3X3) exercise is extremely effective. Simply take three normal breaths through your nose. At the end of the third exhalation pause for three seconds. Then repeat the cycle of three breaths, with a pause, for three or four minutes. Try it and see!
  1. Seek Professional Support: Navigating the complexities of body dysmorphia often requires professional guidance. Finding the right therapist is key.  Once you have found ‘your person’ stick with them as change can take time. 

Embracing the Journey Ahead

The path to overcoming body dysmorphia is neither straight nor easy, but it is paved with opportunities for growth and self-discovery. It’s a journey of learning to quiet the critical inner voice and amplify the one that recognizes your inherent worth and beauty. By employing breathing techniques, practising self-compassion, and leaning on the support of professionals and loved ones, you will manage to lessen the grip of body dysmorphia.  

To learn more about the Buteyko breathing exercises that have helped me, and hopefully you, to reduce any stinkin’ thinkin’, click here.