Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is thought to affect millions of individuals in the U.S. Some studies suggest up to 4 percent of the population may have BDD, but given that the symptoms are often hidden, the numbers could be even higher. Though we primarily hear about women who have this disorder, men do as well – poor body image is not a gender-specific condition. Men and women experience body image concerns in a different manner, but both can feel anxiety about their physical appearance and struggle with the way they feel about themselves. And, no matter how a person experiences BDD, the impact of living with constant negative self-image can be severe. According to the International OCD Foundation, out of those suffering from a body image disorder, up to 80% have attempted or will attempt suicide.
Body image disorders are one of many complications we see in addiction treatment. BDD frequently comes paired with addiction and other mental health conditions, and it’s often unclear to the individual which one came first. They know only that they’re overwhelmed.
At Enlightened Solutions, we aim to change the superficial image we have of the body, and through exercise and therapies, help our clients develop a healthy mindset. In addiction treatment, we have to take time to unpack everything that brings us down and causes us to depend on addictive substances. We offer each client private therapy and group sessions, as well as an early dual diagnosis to communicate treatment expectations. Clients managing body image disorders can learn to love their bodies and how to find happiness in everything around them so they can live with confidence.
Symptoms of Body Image Disorders:
- Wearing baggy clothes
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of interest in friends and family
- Lack of participation in events where food is present
- Lack of appetite
- Hair loss and tooth decay
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Persistent weakness
- Prolonged Illness
- Stomach irritation or intestinal issues
- Constantly picking at the way they look
Body Image and Eating Disorders
When we feel deficient in the way we look compared to others around us or what we see in the media, we can become obsessed with our bodies. Society stresses beauty and promotes a narrowly defined image of a “perfect” body. Many clients who enter our treatment programs begin with the mindset that they need to resemble what’s popular or adhere to what society describes as beautiful.
Body image disorders function almost like the disclaimer on a mirror that warns objects are not as they appear. Over time, individuals with these conditions develop a distorted image of themselves and a hyper-focus on their perceived problems that magnify as they continue to internalize these feelings.
If the issue is body weight, eating disorders soon follow, along with depression and stress from the inability to achieve what an individual feels is the ideal body type. Eating disorders can be dangerous, especially when combined with addictions, as the health problems from lack of nutrition can permanently destroy bodily functions. Drugs, alcohol and lack of nutrition have adverse effects on brain function, as well as the immune and cardiovascular systems.
Types of Eating Disorders:
Bulimia nervosa is a condition that drives people to “binge,” or eat an excessive amount within a defined period of time, and then “purge,” or engage in compensatory behaviors (such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, extreme exercise or misuse of medications like laxatives or diuretics) to “undo” the effects of binge eating. Those with bulimia experience a sense of lack of control over eating during a binging episode. Over time, bulimia can deprive the body of important nutrients, leading to electrolyte and chemical imbalances that affect the function of major organs including the heart.
The severity of bulimia is determined by how frequently the binging and purging cycle occurs, usually at least once a week for at least three months. Individuals with bulimia are typically afraid of gaining weight and have self-esteem that is closely tied to their body image. Someone with bulimia may be thin, overweight or a normal weight. Because bulimia affects people of all body types, and because binging and purging are usually done in private, it can be difficult to tell if a loved one has bulimia.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by weight loss, lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children or difficulty maintaining an appropriate body weight for a person’s age and height. People with anorexia obsessively restrict the number of calories they consume and the types of food they eat. Some also exercise compulsively or misuse laxatives, diuretics, enemas or diet aids to lose weight rapidly. They are often far below a healthy weight, but a person does not need to be underweight or emaciated to be struggling with anorexia.
People with anorexia are acutely focused on controlling their weight and body shape. They often have an unrealistic perception of their appearance and a strong fear of becoming overweight or obese. No matter how much weight they lose, they continue to fear weight gain and will go to extreme lengths to prevent it, even when their restrictive behaviors significantly interfere with their lives. Those with anorexia often equate thinness with self-worth. Treating anorexia involves restoring healthier eating habits and addressing the condition’s underlying emotional causes.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is defined by repeated episodes of binge eating. A binge eating episode includes eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period. It may also involve eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating a large amount of food when not feeling hungry, eating more rapidly than normal or eating alone due to embarrassment over how much one is eating. Those who binge eat often feel depressed, ashamed, guilty or disgusted with themselves after an episode. They do not regularly use harmful compensatory measures (such as purging) to counter the binge eating.
This eating disorder can be difficult for friends and family to identify because someone with binge eating disorder may maintain a normal weight. The health risks associated with binge eating disorder are most commonly those associated with clinical obesity, weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) and weight stigma. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States.
Depression and Addiction
When we have an unhealthy way of viewing our bodies – be it our weight, size or shape – it can be difficult to concentrate on anything other than molding ourselves to fit this distorted image of perfection. Depression and isolation can follow, and eventually, people develop eating disorders that deprive them of proper nutrition and perspective. Dependency on alcohol and drugs can arise as a coping mechanism to mask the deeply rooted issue of disliking what we see or how we feel. Addictions are formed when we are in our most vulnerable state, and body dysmorphic disorders and eating disorders cause the perfect storm of mental, physical and spiritual vulnerability.
At Enlightened Solutions, we offer group therapy sessions that focus on building confidence and strength, as well as nutrition and wellness classes so we can reintroduce a happy and healthy image of food and the body. In these health and wellness sessions, we compliment each other on the hard work we do and encourage one another to take care of ourselves. Addiction can lead us down a rough path that falsifies not only the way we feel, but the world that surrounds us. Operating from the inside out is how we gain control of our thoughts and actions.
Body image disorders can be manipulative and cruel, often begin in unhealthy environments. It is our mission at Enlightened Solutions to create a safe place in which to rebuild and restructure how we think and feel. This allows our clients to remove themselves from negative atmospheres and concentrate on creating an internal space where beauty and strength blossom. For more information, contact us today!