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Breaking The Mirror: A Closer Look at Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages. It is particularly prevalent among young people. It can be characterised by an obsessive preoccupation with one's own appearance, often to the point of significant distress. It can take many forms such as constantly checking appearance in the mirror or any reflective surface, excessive self grooming, and avoidance of social situations in order to hide from the feeling of anxiety and self-consciousness about one's appearance.

Why is this particular mental health issue so impactful?

Body dysmorphia is a serious mental health issue that can have a profound impact on the lives of young people. It can progress from early puberty all the way throughout. The people that experience this mental health issue experience anxiety and distress in relation to their own appearance which in turn can lead to depression, social isolation, and even suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Young people that experience this may also struggle with low-self esteem and poor body image which can have a negative effect on their relationships and overall life. It inhibits 'normal' day to day functions as some people are seriously affected by the way they look.

One of the most challenging aspects of body dysmorphia is that it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Many people can be reluctant to seek help or may not even recognise that their preoccupation with their appearance is abnormal or unhealthy. This can lead to a prolonged period of distress and impairment, as well as missed opportunities for early intervention treatment. As an avid gym go-er for the past few years I for one have mildly suffered from this mental health issue. Once the rush of endorphins dissipates after a session I often looked in the mirror and what was a sight of proudness in progress, soon turned to a feeling of disappointment and unworthiness. Even though I was making bodily progress, my mind would always make me think negatively.

A big problem was comparison, as 'comparison is the thief of joy', which is also an indicator to helping overcome the issue. Comparing yourself to an individual you see in person or on social-media can never end well. You subconsciously rob yourself from the joy of going to the gym as all your progress can seem pointless at some point. So staying positive and not comparing is a big help to serve one's bodily image.

Overcoming the problem

As mentioned previously is my personal way of overcoming this pressing mental health problem, but there is also more effective and professional methods. There are a range of treatments for body dysmorphia including therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is often recommended as the first-line treatment for body dysmorphia, as it has shown to be effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. CBT typically involves helping the individual to identify and challenge the negative though patterns and beliefs about their appearance, as well as developing coping strategies for managing anxiety and distress related to their body image.

In addition to therapy, medication can prescribed. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and depression, and may be helpful for young people with this issue who are experiencing significant distress and impairment. It is also important for loved ones and peers to provide support to those certain individuals. Receiving advice and support from loved ones can really help. Parents, teachers and other caregivers can try to be aware of the signs and symptoms of body dysmorphia in young people. There is also a number of risk factors associated with this mental health issue. It can include a family history of mental health problems, particularly anxiety and depression; exposure to unrealistic beauty standards in the media and popular culture; and experiences of bullying or teasing relating to appearance. Young people who have experienced trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, may be also be at an increased risk of developing body dysmorphia.

There can be many key factors as to why, but identifying why is the first step to recovery. This idea can also be applied to many other mental illnesses as once the major factors are identified you can start to chip away at them through many support methods. Mental illnesses can be an impairment to everyday life and I'm not implying at all that they are easy to overcome, however, no-one is truly alone and you can start to take back your life through taking the initial steps.

In conclusion, body dysmorphia and other mental illnesses can be an impairment to everyday living and it may seem like there's no end. But with the right support I believe you can overcome any issue. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments to help people get their lives back on track and even though people may not optimistic from the start, I believe taking that small first step is arguably the biggest step of all. I hope you have enjoyed reading.

Asad Ahmed


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