Body Dysmorphia and Eating Disorder Counseling
Identifying and Breaking The Cycle
How Do I Know If I Have It?
Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
- Preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance that others can't be seen or appears minor.
- Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed.
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
- Constantly comparing your appearance with others
- Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
- Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Avoiding social situations
I believe that the most important relationship that we can have is the one with ourselves. True peace and contentment come from within, so if the way we view ourselves in the mirror is negative, it can have a domino effect on other areas of our lives. Body dysmorphia can make you feel an immense sense of shame, embarrassment, and anxiety, which leads to an avoidance of all social situations. If this sounds like something that you might be struggling with, I am here for you. For years I have looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw. Believe me, when I say, there are treatment options that can help.
Eating disorders are far more complex than people might expect. There are many different ones categorized, but the most common types are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder (Rome, Stranjord, 2016). These are serious psychological illnesses that can be extremely detrimental to one’s mental and physical health if gone untreated. Individuals with eating disorders are known to base their self-worth on personal weight and shape. This can lead to unhealthy behaviors with food such as binging, purging, and starvation. From a clinical point of view, they do this because their appearance, specifically their weight, is easier to control compared to other areas of their life that are uncontrollable (Fairburn, 1996). I can attest to this from a personal point of view because I struggled with an eating disorder myself.
There are many different interventions and approaches that can be helpful when treating an individual with an eating disorder. Based on my ED experience and personal success, one approach I have found success with is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). When taking an MBCT approach, the counselor should encourage the client to embrace a mindful state of being when negative ED thoughts enter the mind. It is embracing the mentality that these automatic thoughts of failure are not reality and do not require any attention since they are simply mental visitors passing through (Baer, 2003). The intention behind this approach is to help an individual reduce negative thoughts about breaking his or her diet, and prevent them from allowing these negative thoughts to escalate into ruminative patterns, which would in turn prevent ED behaviors such as starvation or purging (Baer et al., 2005; Baer, 2003). Although MBCT is one approach that has been proven successful with clients of mine, it is not the only answer. It is important to keep in mind that the method that a counselor chooses will be unique to the individual and must be in the best interest of the client and his or her needs.
Millions of individuals battle with eating disorders and body dysmorphia every single day. Having lived with one myself, I know how terrible they can be and how much they can affect a person; for years I barely recognized myself and was not the person I knew I truly was deep inside. Recovery is possible. Having support from family and friends and seeking support from outside sources such as counseling can help throughout the recovery process. I have grown significantly and am a stronger person because of my experience. It is what led me to my current profession as a mental health therapist. My eating disorder does not define me, so I no longer let it get the best of me. I know how hard it can be, trust me. At Mind Wellness Counseling, we are here to support you and guide you as you navigate through your journey. All hardships cause pain; this is an inevitable part of life. When days feel tough and it seems like there is no escape, it is important to remember that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.