Struggling with Body Image

The following is an interview with, an online magazine devoted to
college women. 

A severe form of distorted body image is called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a condition consisting of a distressing or impairing preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in physical appearance. Although any body area can be a focus of concern, preoccupation with the appearance of the nose, hair, skin, and eyes tend to be the most common. Often college women present to dermatologists either for treatment of the perceived problem or to seek  reassurance about their appearance. Frequent behaviors relating to this can include skin picking, mirror checking, and camouflaging, such as with makeup or a hat. In other cases they turn up at a plastic surgeon’s office with the hope that somehow having cosmetic surgery will fix the problem,
while in fact for people who have BDD, surgery tends to make the problem worse.

Struggling with body image

The exact causes of BDD are unclear. There is no doubt the proliferation of media images pushing either skinniness or the perfect body can leave even the most secure college women questioning her physical appearance. However, clinical reports of this problem (originally called dysmorphophobia) were reported as early as 1886. More recent data suggests it can affect anywhere from 2% to 13% of students, with women more likely to be affected than men. Many
women who suffer with BDD often have relationship difficulties and problems with intimacy. Others become convinced that somehow if their flaw is corrected, they will become easier to love or be able to attract a desirable partner.

When it comes to overcoming these insecurities, it is important to be able to put the problem in context. If your family and friends tell you your physical appearance is fine just the way it is, or you visit a doctor about the appearance of your skin or eyes and the doctor assures you everything’s fine, it becomes important to identify the critical self- talk that’s contributing to the problem. Your family and friends love you not because of what you look like, but who you are – thoughtful, generous, caring, and all the other qualities that make people radiate inner beauty. If you are struggling with problems like anxiety or depression, get help for it. Talk with a counselor. Women who are happy are more likely to be perceived as attractive by others, and part of this has to do with appearing comfortable within one’s own skin. If you are bulimic or anorexic, not getting professional help could be fatal.

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