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Ten Tips To See Your True Reflection And Combat Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Imagine a student who always speaks negatively about their body. They constantly talk about physical aspects they wish to change, point out nearly invisible flaws, and go to extreme measures to monitor how they look. This student has no positive identifiers with their body. Does this sound like you? Could you benefit from being able to identify and turn around negative thinking habits into positive, healthy thoughts? If you want to start looking at yourself through a healthier lens, join the Counseling Center Paraprofessionals in Illini Union Room 406 on October 25 at 7 p.m. to create a body positive action plan.

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1. I’m preoccupied with my body, do I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

It’s completely normal to feel self-conscious about our appearance or certain body parts. It’s also normal to be worried about how others perceive our insecurities. However, the criteria for BDD is very specific. Those with BDD often only worry about a specific thing on their body, and this preoccupation with it lasts for at least an hour a day, and can in fact last the whole day! The worry lasts despite reassurance, and causes interference with at least one area of life.

2. BDD is more than an eating disorder.

There is a common misconception that BDD is an eating disorder due to the preoccupation with the body. However, it is in fact its own category! An eating disorder can be present but it also doesn’t need to be. There also is a lot of overlap with anxiety disorders, like OCD or social anxiety disorder, which plays a role in the under-diagnosis of BDD.

3. Don’t fall victim to distorted thinking!

Often the obsession one feels with one’s appearance is blown out of proportion and can’t be soothed despite reassurance from others. Get familiar with the type of cognitive distortion you are using so you can learn to combat it.

4. Appreciate what your body can do.

Despite the constant feelings of having defects and flaws, realize that your body is amazing and does a lot for you. Recognize small things you take for granted that your body does every day to keep you healthy and alive.

5. Don’t try to fit the mold.

From the get go we are told about an ideal standard of how men and women are supposed to look. Don’t get fixated on this and try to fit that mold! Every body is different.

6. Exercise for the right reasons.

Especially with the subtype of muscle dysmorphia, we may feel uncomfortable with our bodies and try to exercise for an external reason. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Find a better reason to exercise. Exercise for the joy of becoming stronger, and improving your health rather than to attain a goal or to impress others.

7. Listen to your body.

Your body will tell you what it needs. Don’t skip out on meals due to guilt, eat when you are hungry, and eat until you’ve had enough. The same goes for exercise! Don’t push yourself past what you can actually handle.

8. Forgive yourself.

Allow yourself to not be perfect all the time. You might not eat the best one day, you might skip a workout, or you might have spent too much time worrying about your appearance. It’s okay! Holding yourself to such rigid standards is more harmful than helpful.

9. Look at yourself as a whole, not individual parts.

Although you may find yourself fixated on one part of your body, chances are no one else is. Look at yourself as a whole being rather than just “blotchy skin”. By allowing yourself to see the rest of your appearance and self, you’ll get a glimpse of the real you that others see.

10. Remain positive.

Don’t get caught up with your thoughts, or ruminations. Reframe your “flaws” as positives, surround yourself with positive people, continue doing things you love, and most importantly seek help. It’s okay to reach out to others! CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been known to help treat BDD. Learn your options and do what’s best for you.

Like these great tips and want even more information? Be sure to attend the "Seeing Your True Reflection: Overcoming Body Dysmorphia" workshop on Tuesday, October 25th at 7pm in Illini Union Room 406!

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