Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness characterized by obsessing over a perceived flaw in your body or appearance. Body dysmorphia is normally connected to co-occurring problems, such as anorexia or bulimia; however, a person can struggle with body dysmorphia without the presence of an eating disorder.
A Distorted View of the Body
Body dysmorphia causes you to obsess over your body or a perceived flaw in your appearance. As stated by the Mayo Clinic, “When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely focus on your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for hours each day.”
This disorder causes the individual to have a distorted view of themselves as their perceived “flaw” may be minor or not even there (Ibid.). Facial features, skin appearance, and body parts can all be causes of concern for the individual struggling with body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a disorder that is quite common in modern society.
Many famous figures have been diagnosed with body dysmorphia such as actor Robert Pattinson, singer Billie Eilish, and Bastille’s frontman Dan Smith. Those who struggle with body dysmorphia often have problems with perfectionism, suffer from a distorted view that they are ugly, and experience intense social anxiety.
Living with body dysmorphia can be quite difficult, tiresome, and draining. Seeing a flaw in oneself that is truly not there is very problematic for those struggling with body dysmorphia. Eating disorder sufferers also experience a form of body dysmorphia in their illness.
From my own personal experience, I have struggled with body dysmorphia since the early onset of anorexia during my teen years. It is hard to explain to a person who does not have body dysmorphia; however, it can be articulated to a degree.
Personally, body dysmorphia distorts my vision to the point of seeing myself as ugly, overweight, or abnormally large despite what others tell me. Even though loved ones may offer encouraging and helpful suggestions, the distortion remains in my mind and my eyes.
There are many causes of body dysmorphia such as underlying mental illness including anorexia, bulimia, depression, and anxiety; however, it can also be a result of childhood bullying, negative events growing up, or societal pressure (Ibid.).
If you have been diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder or you feel you suffer from this illness, know that you are not alone. It is a very common illness and there is help available. Reach out to your primary care physician, a therapist, or a psychologist to share your concerns with them.
Through therapy and medications, body dysmorphia can be helped and treated. In the midst of struggling with body dysmorphia or if you know someone struggling with body dysmorphia, it can be helpful to know what the Bible says about this disorder.
The Bible Plus Body Dysmorphia
The Bible does not specifically tell us anything about body dysmorphic disorder because it was not known or discovered during the time of the Old Testament or the New Testament. This does not mean it was not in existence yet — it just means that it was not recognized as BDD during biblical times.
Even though the Bible does not talk about body dysmorphia, it does talk about body image and self-image. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
The Lord looks at the heart — not at the physical appearance. In God’s eyes, all people are beautiful. He created each of us fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139:13-19). God does not make mistakes in His beautiful design. Since you are a human being, you are wonderful, beautiful, and amazing just as you are.
There is nothing about you that you need to change. The Lord loves us no matter if we fit the societal standards of the world or not. In the 21st century, beauty has been limited to blonde hair, blue eyes, and thinness. However, most Americans in the present day do not fit this ideal beauty standard.
Beauty standards were created by the world — not by God. In fact, beauty standards have twisted, changed, and evolved over the years to accommodate different views of beauty. Marilyn Monroe was seen as the most beautiful woman during her life; however, now in the year 2021, she would be seen as “overweight.”
The world will constantly change its measure of beauty, yet the Lord never will. He says we are all beautiful as we are because we are made in His Image (Genesis 1:27). This can be a hard truth to accept when our minds are distorted to reality. In order to come back to reality, we need to turn to the Lord.
When an individual can recognize they have body dysmorphia, they can take the steps to help their thought process. When you find yourself feeling particularly distressed or obsessing over a certain aspect of your appearance, ask God to help you see yourself as He does.
Pour out your heart to the Lord and give your anxieties over to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). As previously mentioned, much of the beauty ideals stem from pop culture. The “beauty” of thinness has been filtered into our minds since we were children; however, beauty does not equate to thinness.
The Bible tells us we should not conform to the world but be renewed in the thinking of our minds as Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.”
The world is fallen, broken, and filled with sin. It should not surprise us that the world sets unrealistic standards of beauty in our modern-day society. When distorted views of ourselves arise in our minds, we need to turn our thoughts back to what the Bible tells us.
God tells us in the Bible that we are beautiful just as we are. Beauty does not come from outward appearance but rests in a person’s relationship, reverence, and respect for the Lord (Proverbs 31:30).
How to Seek Help
Whenever we are struggling with a mental illness, we need to seek out help. Even though mental illnesses are often not manifested in tangible ways, such as bad blood work, irregular heartbeats, or dehydration, mental illness still needs and deserves treatment.
Mental illness has been stigmatized in the past; however, much of that stigma is being broken today. If you are struggling with body dysmorphia, read out to your family, friends, or another trusted individual.
Talk to your doctor, therapist, or counselor and express your concerns to them about your body dysmorphia. If a friend comes to you seeking help for body dysmorphia, the best thing you can do is listen to them, encourage them, and help them get professional help.
Similar to other mental illnesses, body dysmorphia can cause a great deal of other problems if left untreated such as anxiety, eating disorders, depression, mood disorders, and suicide (Ibid.).
Whether you are personally struggling with body dysmorphia or a loved one you know is struggling with it, turn to the Lord, ask for His help, reflect on the Bible, and get professional help from doctors, therapists, and counselors.
There is nothing to be ashamed of for seeking out help. In fact, it takes great courage to ask for help — especially concerning mental illnesses.
Therefore, the Bible does not specifically speak about body dysmorphia; however, it does tell us about positive body image as each human being is beautifully created by the Lord. Each time distortion comes into our minds, we need to turn our eyes and hearts back to Jesus.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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