Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is an under-reported and often misunderstood mental health condition that affects at least 1% of the population. Sufferers are usually perceived as vain but, in reality, many are so disgusted by their physical appearance that it leads to crippling anxiety which prevents them leaving the house.
MK mum Chloe Autumn Rose, who was pictured on the July front cover of Celebrate:MK modelling our charity T-shirt, explains how she is battling to overcome BDD after finally being diagnosed last year…
Looking back now I can see I had a problem with my looks from the age of 13 – but never did I imagine that such a deep-rooted anxiety would emerge all these years later to nearly destroy me.
Two years ago, after coming out of an eight-year relationship low on confidence, I decided to dive into the exciting world of social media.
I opened accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, I started online dating, and I became a bit obsessed with it all.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that social media had become like self-harming to me.
I would see photos of picture-perfect girls all the time and constantly compare myself to them, and I wanted to know what products they used so I could try to look as good as they did.
I already thought I was ugly – no matter what anyone told me – and this just got worse and worse over the next few
months until I eventually felt disgusted every time I looked in the mirror.
Snapchat became a live-saver to me as, once I discovered I could use filters to alter my appearance and look prettier, it became the only way I could post a picture and be seen.
I knew it wasn’t good for me, but in a strange way I also needed the validation of likes and comments, because I felt so low about my appearance.
My looks made me feel so physically sick some days that I would often cancel plans because of how awful I felt I looked, and I was too worried about being judged as ugly.
Yet my own worst critic was myself. I got a tattoo saying ‘I am enough’, as I thought that if I saw it every day then I might believe it.
The turning point for me came a year ago when my best friend told me I was beautiful. I cried as it suddenly hit me that something was really wrong with me, and I realised I could never accept a compliment.
I decided to go to the doctor thinking that maybe I was suffering from anxiety. I told the doctor and he said to me he thinks I’m suffering with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also known as BDD.
I had never heard of this mental health condition but, after some research, it all made sense and I was
relieved that I wasn’t alone or crazy in suffering this. I found out that there are so many sufferers out there who keep it to themselves or don’t seek help for it.
Most people are too scared that they will be seen as vain, but it’s not a vanity issue at all. It’s almost as if people with BDD have a brain that’s wired up differently, and it is very stressful to live with as
you see horrendous flaws in your appearance that aren’t always noticeable to others.
I have since had counselling for my low self-esteem and body insecurities, and I find that regularly using fake tan helps me feel better too!
It was a huge step for me to have an unfiltered photo of myself used on the front cover of Celebrate:MK last month, and I have taken control of the way I use social media now too.
I love the positives of social media as I use it now like a magazine – to see the latest fashion and beauty trends, food recipes, what my friends are doing and good places to eat – and I try to avoid comparing myself to models!
I’ve also found and supported other people who suffer with BDD on there. I don’t know if my BDD will ever fully go away but I manage it so that I am now able to live life without it stopping me from going out
and enjoying being mum to my girls.
I tell them every day that they are beautiful, kind and amazing humans – maybe one day I will believe I am too.
For further information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder visit http://www.bddfoundation.org