Compassion to others Compassion to Self- Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Dear Dr N, I do not like my body. I am healthy, I can do what I want to do but just can’t seem to stop being so critical of myself. This may not be gynecology but I would like to see what you think? I don’t need surgery or anything, I just need to turn my brain off!!! NB

Dear N- What a sweet note. Believe me, you are not alone, there are many people, not just women who have that constant self critical voice that often relates to our physical appearance. There is a diagnosis called Body Dysmorphic Disorder BDD that affects approximately 1% of the population (although I think it is higher, just not self reported). It is a diagnosis that was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1987 although it was first described in 1886 by a different name. The ‘disorder’ in its most severe form can lead to severe social isolation, depression, love avoidance or suicide. In milder forms, it is a tiring voice that is not often revealed to others. There is a difference between specific abnormalities that can be corrected that will lead to improved self acceptance and those aspects of an individual that make them uniquely them that may not fit into societo-media norms. It is important to differentiate between the two. For patients that have BDD that are constantly having plastic surgery to improve how they feel, these patients need help. This can be psychotherapy, medication, addressing abuse issues or cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is important to consider one’s motives and intentions before exploring surgical interventions to change their appearance. We all have a great deal to learn about compassion to self and others. As we criticize ourselves so too, do we judge others.
The softening of the critical voice to self and others makes this journey much easier. It becomes easier to love and be loved- which is one of the great ‘importants’ of life. By telling on ourselves, we get help in the journey.
Thanks for writing, Dr N