There is a saying making its rounds on social media that “Anorexia is about control; Bulimia is about anger and over-eating is about shame.” Body Dysmorphic Disorders (BDD) are not nearly so simple, but it is a good and simple way to keep the conversation going about a very difficult and misunderstood problem.
Just do a quick search of Twitter on the word “anorexia” and you will see just how common and current talk about it is. The sad part is it is still seen as a valid point of humor. Anorexia like obesity is in the “safe to make fun of” range. If you or anyone you know suffers from Body Dysmorphic Disorders you know it is no laughing matter. There is a lot of new thinking going on about BDD, but it’s hard to find the latest and most valid amid all the clutter on the Internet.
The old school of thinking about BDD focused on issues with food control and an overall body image. The BDD Foundation released a comprehensive list detailing the parts of the body that a person may become preoccupied with and seek to “correct” through other means then over-indulging, binging or purging food. Addictions to exercise, cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, wellness and prevention medicine are equal symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorders as are the habits of anorexia and bulimia. BDD can develop over a fixation about a single point of the body “not being right.”
The BDD/Cosmetic Surgery Connection
There is some initial thinking going on about the presence of BDD as a social illness. While for years advocates have fought for more realism in advertisement (best exemplified by the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign) it has only begun to be recognized how subtle, pervasive and expected BDD behavior is socially. A lack of total commitment to a strenuous health and exercise routine is seen as laziness. As well, there is a social expectation that everyone will do whatever they can to remain looking young.
Men and BDD
The thinking used to be that men did not have as high an incidence of Body Dysmorphic Disorders as women did. More and more, clinicians are discovering that is not true. In 2012, a survey done by the Council of Medicine in the UK discovered that one of the fastest growing demographics of people with BDD was boys 15 through 23. An unrelated review of print and TV ads showed that while there has been a move toward presenting “real beauty” for women, men are being confronted with more and more unrealistic body images. Men can develop preoccupations with any aspect of their bodies, not just their body-build as was previously thought. A rise in men seeking cosmetic surgery confirms all of these finding.
The new treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorders still make behavior management a priority, but they also work more towards changing core thoughts and treating co-occurring disorders such as depression. This stems from recent studies that have shown that the causes for BDD involve more than what the person does and does not do with food.
The next time you hear someone discussing BDD with laughter and ridicule, you may want to remind them that this is a very real disorder and those that are suffering from it don’t believe that it is a laughing matter. Body image in our country unfortunately has made so many of us self-conscious that even when we look our very best; it is simply not enough. How sad is that?