The way that we view our bodies and feel in them can influence our self-view, feelings of worth, and fulfillment with our lives. For individuals with body dysmorphia, the negative perception of their body can lead to negative behaviors such as disordered eating and/or excessive exercise.
It is known that body image involves the representations an individual has about their physical appearance. What is less commonly discussed is that body image can be broken down into 4 additional subcategories- perceptual, affective, cognitive, and behavioral.
Perceptual body image refers to how an individual perceives their body. For example, feeling that they are “too thin” or have a body part that is “too big”.
Affective body image is the feeling that one has about their body, specifically the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction one may feel towards their appearance, weight, shape, and body parts.
Cognitive body image refers to the thoughts and beliefs that individuals have about themselves.
Behavioral body image includes the behaviors individuals engage in as a result of their body image, such as disordered eating, excessive exercising, or self-harming behaviors.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
For an individual dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), all 4 of the areas described above are distorted. Individuals suffering from BDD go beyond having negative thoughts about their body to having obsessive thoughts with a perceived flaw in their physical appearance.
Those that struggle with BDD often spend large amounts of time checking their appearance in the mirror, comparing themselves to others, and engaging in behaviors designed to try and hide or conceal their specific area of concern. Typically, these areas of concern or perceived flaws are non-existent or so insignificant that others do not notice. This creates a feeling of isolation and shame which often results in depression and social anxiety.
BDD and Anorexia
In regards to body dysmorphia and its link to anorexia, there is an overlap between characteristics of BDD and anorexia, including body image dissatisfaction, rituals and behaviors relating to appearance, and a tendency to compare.
Individuals with anorexia commonly suffer from body dysmorphia, displaying an overly negative body image or self-esteem. It is not uncommon for a person with any eating disorder to obsess over their physical appearance and engage in extreme dieting/exercise behaviors.
If you or someone you love is showing signs of BDD or anorexia, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Give us a call at 866-616-9706.