Earlier this month I wrote about body dysmorphia and some of my experience with it. This week, I’d like to focus on how I manage it and some things you can try if you also suffer from it.
As I mentioned before, body dysmorphia can make it very difficult to live a happy and fulfilling life.
Depending on severity, it can drastically affect your confidence, self esteem and state of mind. This means it will tend to effect the way that you interact with others, how you let other people treat you and how you treat yourself. Not only will your personal relationships be affected, but most likely your career and mental health as well.
Body dysmorphia can start at a very young age- especially with today’s focus on social media. But even if you’ve suffered for years, it’s never too late to try to manage the symptoms. There are a few different resources that you have available to you. (Please note, the things I mention below are not your only options. They are just the ones that I have tried and found helpful. If you have other tips or tools that have helped you, please feel free to share them with me as I’m always looking to learn more.)
Journaling is always a great option.
If you’ve been with me on this healing journey for a while now, you’ll know by now how much I love journaling. I really believe that it is an effective treatment for many different mental health issues. Plus, not only is it easy to do, but it can be completely free!
Anytime I have any sort of issue on my mind, I turn to my journals. Body dysmorphia is no different. You can start just by writing your feelings or thoughts down in order to identify them. Then try to dig deeper into why you have those thoughts and feelings. Locating the source can help you understand your whys, which can help you to challenge them. I like to write out what the feeling or thought is, and then follow it up with all of the reasons that I know it isn’t true.
Simply challenging your obsessive thoughts can go a great way.
For instance, as I mentioned in my last body dysmorphia post, I have always struggled with my chest. One way I can work on that is to write out a journal entry starting with My chest is great because… The first thing that comes to mind for me now is that it allowed me to feed my daughter for a whole year, and very soon it will allow me to nourish my son as well. Try to find as many ways to challenge your initial negative thought as possible.
There are times that I also use my journal to write out plans. For instance, the next time I feel this way, I will ___ in order to feel better. I’ve also found that writing down gratitudes as well as body positivity affirmations helps me as well. If you’re really having trouble figuring out where to start, google body positivity prompts. There is a whole world of helpful resources out there to get you started.
Therapy can be a great treatment plan for body dysmorphia.
Sometimes just talking to a non-partial third party can be very helpful in putting things in perspective. A trained therapist can help you to change your focus or work towards accepting yourself. Not only can you develop a plan together, but you have an accountability partner as well.
Talk therapy isn’t your only option though. You may recall me talking about some different forms of therapy in previous posts that help to sort of rewire your brain. Those are super helpful when it comes to body dysmorphia as well!
I have personally tried hypnotherapy, EFT and Cognitive behavioral therapy for my body dysmorphia and I have definitely noticed a relief as far as my symptoms.
In my opinion, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was the most effective for me. Basically, this type of therapy focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Someone trained in CBT can help guide you to figure out what thoughts are leading you towards the emotions and actions connected to your body dysmorphia, and you work together in order to change them.
While this isn’t a cure per say, it is a great way to stay in control and manage the symptoms of your body dysmorphia. Since you can recognize the triggers and thoughts, you’re able to combat it from the start, from resisting certain urges to forming new reactions. I found that simply understanding the connection between my thoughts and feelings was a big help. I’m still in the process of learning how my mind works and redefining my beliefs, and I honestly will probably never stop trying to learn more. Each step helps me to further be in control and define who I am as well as who I want to be.
Some therapists recommend medications (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and other SRI’s), which can be very helpful and effective for some people, especially when combined with therapy. Personally, they were not as effective for me. So while I did try out medications as part of my treatment, I chose to go a different route after a while.
Be strict with your social media.
It seems like it should be obvious not to follow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, but for some reason, it’s sometimes hard to do. The same way we sometimes feel a need to check up on our exes or seek out people who have hurt us before… It would be better to just say no but the temptation can be really strong! It’s all too common to compare ourselves to strangers or celebrities and to feel like we’re coming up short, despite the fact that we never see the whole picture. While the days of flipping through magazines may be behind us, scrolling on Instagram, tiktok, facebook, etc doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Some people recommend setting time limits on how long you spend on social media. Others say to get off of it completely. For me personally, I say be selective in what you see. Only follow accounts that make you happy or motivate you in some way. Avoid accounts that make you feel ashamed or down or less than.
It’s also really important to remember that most of social media is curated. Creators are often extremely selective with what they post. Often times, things like photoshop or selective angling is applied to make it seem as if things are better than reality. While someone might seem like they have the perfect body or job or life, it doesn’t make it true. You’re only seeing what they want you to see.
It’s also important not to let yourself put too much of a focus on how many likes or views your own posts get.
It can be hard not to hope to go viral or to get a bunch of compliments on your latest post, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t the end of the world. For one thing, you never know exactly how the algorithms are working or who is even seeing your posts. Everything from your hashtags to the time of day you post may play a role, which makes it insane to equate your value to how many times someone clicks a little heart. It’s easier said than done, but changing the way that you use social media can definitely help boost your self esteem and mental health in general.
I was recently introduced to the Social Media Victims Law Center, and they have some really great information on their website about social media, how it affects body image, as well as a guide to some of the ways you can combat the negative affects. I highly recommend you check them out here.
Overall, it’s important to remember that you matter.
Whether you’re struggling with body dysmorphia, mental health or any of the stigmas that go along with them, you are still worthy and enough. Struggling doesn’t make you weak or less than. And you are NOT alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling, I strongly encourage you to seek out help. Whether it’s trying one of the things I mentioned above or another tactic all together, the support you need is out there. Just remember that your feelings are valid, and you have value.
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