Do You Have Body Dysmorphia?

What else does one do on a sick day than watch TLC’s “What Not To Wear?” In an effort to forget about my scratchy throat and plugged ears, I lost myself in the story of Danielle, an Austin teacher who shed a remarkable 120 pounds and needed a wardrobe makeover.

 Danielle suffered from a what I call a non-clinical version of body dysmorphia. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a.k.a. “imagined ugliness,” is when the mind’s eye does not match up with reality in a negative way. Small perceived flaws are exaggerated and become a mental obsession. BDD victims tend to become addicted to plastic surgery, or become depressed, or develop social disorders. The link to eating disorders is under review.

Stacy London (with whom I trained in 2011) rightly identified that Danielle didn’t “see” how thin she’d become and was having clothing woes as a result. Her mind’s eye was clinging to a warped view of her body. To open her eyes, so to speak, Stacy and Clinton Kelly asked Danielle to draw a true-to-scale outline of her body as she saw it. Then, Danielle stood in front of the outline and Clinton drew her actual silhouette– which was considerably leaner than Danielle’s mental version. You could see Danielle’s pleasant surprise.

So, back to my original question: Do you have body dysmorphia? A BDD diagnosis might include these common signs.  In my professional experience, most people have a touch of non-clinical body dysmorphia- even the guys. Some signs I’ve seen:

1.  Wearing all black because I look “fat” in any other color.
2.  Turning down social activities because I look terrible in all my clothes.
3.  Wearing clothes that are age inappropriate (read short, tight and shiny) because I look old in anything else.
4.  Hiding behind everyone else in a group photo, or ask that it only show me from the bust line up.
5.  Opting for clothes that are too big in an attempt to hide the perceived flaw.
6.  Wearing dark or thick makeup to look younger.
7. Bleaching hair blonde to look younger or more sexy.

We all have features we want to minimize, and I can provide style strategies to do that. But if you find that your concerns are inhibiting you from living a normal, active and healthy life, call a doctor for a professional assessment.

Please contact me with your style questions!

Thea Wood
Signature Stylist


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