When your body does not feel like home. Body dysmorphia is when your body does not look the way you want or feel it should, to a point that you do not feel at home inside your own body.
Body dysmorphia is a lived reality for many individuals. We may sing high and low on how important it is to love our bodies and ourselves.
I cannot imagine the kind of guilt and anxiety that those words must sound to a person who suffers from this disorder. “You need to love your body”.
How do you go on to explain to loved ones, what only you can see? But which consumes most of your thoughts and very existence.
It is like being sick for a long time and the doctors cannot find what is wrong with you. Except that when you are sick, people can see that you are sick.
When the sickness is inside your own head and affects how you see yourself. It is hard for people to empathise. And so you lock yourself away as often as you can.
Social spaces feel like a haze of judgement because what are people’s eyes really looking at? Are they judging you, and how you look? Do they pity you? Are they disgusted?
How does one even begin to meet new people and open up to them? Old friends may understand you. New ones demand a kind of energy you no longer have.
Having to explain without really explaining because you also do not want to scare anyone away. When the truth is their tiny bone structure makes you feel humongous.
Their smooth light skin makes you want to tear at your dark skin. That muscular guy at the gym puts you to shame. You want to roll yourself up into a ball and hide.
Of course, this disorder affects different people differently. Depending on their own life experiences, gender, race and perhaps social class.
It can give birth to new illnesses such as eating disorders, self-mutilation, depression and addiction to plastic surgery.
There is some groundbreaking research that can help people living with this disorder. By tracking the movement of the eye and brain activity, patients are asked to discern different facial from the different faces that they are shown.
The results of a normal healthy person will usually look at the area around the eyes and then the mouth. A person with dysmorphia looks at more random places of the face and more heightened brain activity.
What this demonstrates is that people with dysmorphia find it hard to read facial expressions. As if finding it hard to focus on important features which can help with reading people.
Our current economic system does more damage than good to all our mental health. A consumer-driven society, that the only language the television speaks to us is what we should have or achieve.
So we want those perfect bodies. We want our bodies to feel like home. The perfect eyebrows. The perfect skin. The perfect nose. The perfect abs. What about those that feel women inside but are born in male bodies? And visa versa?
With all these aspirations to really live up to. We do not stop and think that perhaps it does get too much for some. And in the end, even the somewhat mentally healthy individuals have a ticking time bomb worrying about things like how they look.
I may not have gone close to conveying the lived reality of individuals that are living with body dysmorphia. What this article aims do is bring us closer to realities not our own.
To take a step towards empathising with what we may sometimes not understand or see. For many, this is a reality that they live with every day.