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Understanding Body Dysmorphia: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and What You Can Do

What is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition where a person becomes obsessed with flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often minor or not even noticeable to others, but they can feel overwhelming and distressing. 

People with body dysmorphia may engage in behaviors such as constantly checking their appearance in mirrors, seeking reassurance from others about their appearance, or taking extreme measures to try to hide or fix perceived flaws. These behaviors can interfere with relationships, work, and overall quality of life.

Body dysmorphia can affect people of any age, gender, or background. It is not limited to a specific demographic group. Even pro bodybuilders or celebrities even have battled with body dysmorphia. The effect body dysmorphia has on your mental state can demotivate you and test you at points. 

Signs & Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia can be triggered by even the slightest of things. Have you ever felt massive at the gym and the second you look at your body in the mirror at home you don't feel or look as big or strong? This has happened to everybody. Gyms typically have “enhanced lighting” to create a better image of oneself. The “pump” at the gym also creates that full-muscle look that tends to wear off over the next few hours. It's important to remember in this situation that lighting can drastically change the look of someone's appearance.

Body dysmorphia is slightly more common in women, but recent studies have shown that it is starting to grow in the male population. A study from the International OCD Foundation states that roughly 60% of women and 40% of men have some symptoms of body dysmorphia and experience it before the age of 18 (Phillips, K. 2023, April 21). A lot of the time this disorder goes undiagnosed because body dysmorphia is less understood than other disorders like depression. It is important to mention any symptoms you experience to your doctor or physician because many times while suffering from body dysmorphia your perception is the complete opposite of the way others see you.

The Truth About Influencers

Not everyone you see on Instagram who has that “perfect” physique and claims to be natural is telling the truth. There are some people who have insane natural genetics and very impressive physiques, but those are very few and far between. Comparing a natural body to an enhanced body will discourage anyone. 

There are people like Liver King and countless others who have lied and claimed that they have secret methods to enhance their testosterone. In reality, many of these “influencers” lie about their natural status for business purposes or other reasons. Not every single influencer is lying, but some do lie to gain popularity. It's important to dig into what their physique looks like all year round. If they are at minimal body fat year round there is a chance they may use illegal substances to maintain their physique. Not even professional bodybuilders like Jay Cutler or Ronnie Coleman had 5% body fat all year round. There are times of the year when the body will gain additional body fat simply because of genetics. For example, the human body is genetically coded to gain a little more body fat over the winter months. This protects us from the cold and is also partially due to the lack of sunlight we receive during the colder months. These changes in body fat percentage are normal but are rarely shown by fitness personalities that many people base their fitness goals on.

It’s important to keep track of your progress with photos throughout your training journey to see how far you have come. Log books or training apps that keep track of your workout progress are extremely useful for keeping hard data you can use to accurately assess your development.

Fitness is a personal journey of self-improvement. When feeling discouraged remember that you may not be viewing yourself as realistically as you think. Of course, if these feelings become overwhelming or begin to affect your life negatively, there are people and resources that you can reach out to for help.

Ways to Help Treat Body Dysmorphia

  1. Educate Yourself: Learn more about body dysmorphia to understand its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Education can help reduce stigma and increase your motivation to seek help and make positive changes.

  2. Engage in Self-Care: Take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as meditation or yoga. Also, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and prioritize sleep.

  3. Limit Social Media Use: Be mindful of how social media influences your body image. This is a big one as social media is the biggest influencer of how people portray themselves. You cannot compare yourself to someone else because everyone is built differently and has different genetics. 

  4. Get help: Sometimes the best way to help yourself is by talking to someone else, a friend, a parent, or even professional help. Better Help is a great online solution that connects you with trained professionals who are there to help you. 



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