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Body Dysmorphic Disorder is making her miserable

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 22 now. When I was younger I was very overweight, I topped out at 160lbs at around 5ft 3in when I was in middle school. Everyone always made fun of me for being so fat, but at the time, although it hurt, it didn’t really seem to affect me so much. However, towards the end of middle school I became obsessive about my weight and weened myself down to eating barely anything. Over 200 calories was deemed unacceptable to me, and I dropped down to 120lbs and was now 5ft 8in. I still was absolutely disgusted with myself and wanted to be as skinny as possible, so much so that I envied those who were labeled anorexic. I even joined a pro-ana website.

Eventually, I started eating a little bit more, but i would force myself to puke it up. I always felt disgusting and fat. I hated myself so much that I resorted to self mutilation.At this point my parents finally got worried and I was put on antidepressants and taken to a therapist. I stopped taking the medication and only went to about 3 or 4 sessions with my therapist because we couldn’t afford it and I hated it anyways. Again, I eventually started eating more, but now I’d only eat “fat free” food, and I’d still purge. For the sake of my parents, I forced myself to stop purging because they knew I was doing it. It was hard to not recognize the smell of puke lingering in bags in my closet, and stuck in the drains in the bathroom. It was hard to stop but I did it. In the process, I joined a gym with my mom and I became obsessed with working out. I worked out at least 2 hours a day 5 days a week. I still hated my body though. I started training with a trainer to lose more weight though he said I was already skinny, I wasn’t to myself and that’s all I wanted. Unfortunately with the diet plan he gave me I gained 10 lbs which was supposedly from muscle, but to me, 10lbs was 10 lbs. I finally got fed up with it all and had liposuction at 19 years old. I was convinced it’d make me happy, but $9000 later I hated myself even more. Now I swear it was a botched liposuction and hate how uneven it is and the bumps it left on my stomach and how it messed up the shape of my butt. Needless to say, I am now 22 and I hate my body more than ever. I hate my bumpy stomach, my rippled jiggly thighs, my flapping arms. I hate the size and shape of my butt and breasts, I hate my fat wrists, I hate my nose, the size of my eyes and lips, the shape of my face, and the length of my toes. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t hate at this point. I have MANY crippling issues but this is by far the worst of them. I cry all the time even though my boyfriend always says I’m skinny and beautiful. Everyday is torture to me, its all i think about and it consumes my whole life and all of my energy. I spend my days wishing I was other girls and feeling like I’m nothing. I’ve been suicidal many times, and though I don’t believe I would ever try it, I can’t say I don’t ever think about it anymore. Noone even knows any of this other than my boyfriend. I guess the front I put up is so good that everyone thinks I grew out of it, and my god I wish that were the case! I am now eating somewhat normally, almost compulsively actually and I absolutely hate myself for it. I am 155lbs and still 5 foot 8 which is supposedly healthy but I feel like a blimp and can’t stand to even look in a mirror. I still have feelings of wanting to stop eating or to purge. I just don’t know what to do, and why this is happening to me!!I hate my life so much because of this. I don’t know if it has anything to do with this, but even when I was around 130 lbs my mom always had comments about my weight and told me I couldn’t fit into the clothes I wanted to wear. If I picked up a small, she’s pick up a large. She always made comments about my body like my but being flat or my toes being freakish or my top lip being smaller than my bottom one, and many others. She makes comments about what I eat..even the rice cakes, she says I need to watch what I eat. A few years ago my brother also admitted he said he didn’t love me when I was fat, and he laughed like it was a joke. It hurt…ALOT. Especially because it was coming from my older brother who I always looked up to. He even has his own issues with his weight, he too was very overweight and crash dieted when he was in high school.I just don’t know what to do with myself, I feel beyond help.

I’m very, very glad you wrote. You’ve been in pain around body issues much, much too long. Yes, it makes sense that family members’ comments would make you feel self-conscious. And middle school is traumatizing for many people. It sounds to me like maybe you developed what’s called body dysmorphic disorder in response to all that negativity. You have an unrealistic idea of what your body looks like and it’s been making you miserable.

It’s time for you to have what I call a healthy rebellion. You’ve apparently taken old messages from middle school and family members to heart and accepted those opinions as your own. It’s time to reject those ideas and to decide for yourself what is good for you. My guess is that those same individuals have been wrong about many things. Why would you think they were right about what you look like?

Yes, I know. A healthy rebellion may sound good to you but feel too hard to do on your own. In that case, having the support of a sympathetic and experienced therapist would probably give you quite a bit of relief.

I’m sorry your first experience with a therapist didn’t work out. But maybe you didn’t have the right therapist for you. Ask people you trust to recommend someone and look for a therapist you feel you can work with. Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy is probably the most helpful for this problem so look for a therapist who has that training.

You are most certainly not beyond help. But you have to accept some help to get it. You made an important first step by writing. I hope you will take the next step and give therapy another chance.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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