The Unhealthy Quest for Perfection: Body Image Disorder

Many of us have a physical characteristic that we don’t especially like. Maybe you would like to be thinner, or that one eyebrow is a little higher than the other, or you think your nose is too big. If you are like most people, you probably spend a little time thinking about these perceived flaws and then get on with your life. If you don’t like your nose much, you might learn a few tricks with makeup, you might turn your face a certain way in photos, or you might even consider getting a nose job. Maybe your desire to be thinner causes you to adopt a healthy diet and spend more time exercising. That’s normal. 

But for some people, the perceived flaw (usually something that other people don’t notice or don’t think is a big deal) becomes an obsession. This obsession has a name: Body Image Disorder or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). People with BDD spend hours each day thinking about their perceived flaw(s). People suffering from BDD fixate on perceived flaws frequently related to facial features, hair, skin, the appearance of veins, breast size, muscle size and tone, genitalia, and weight. They might have several cosmetic procedures in an endless attempt to fix the “problem” and never be satisfied with the results. According to an article published on the Mayo Clinic’s website, people with BDD spend an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, grooming, dressing to hide the “flaw,” and seeking reassurance from other people about their appearance to the point where these actions interfere with their daily life. People suffering from BDD tend to isolate and avoid social situations.

Prevalence of Body Image Disorder

 Staff at Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, among them body image disorder, estimate that up to four percent of the United States population suffers from body image disorder.  In addition, according to the OCD Foundation, 80% of people with a body image disorder have attempted or will attempt suicide. 

BDD and Eating Disorders

If someone with BDD is fixated on their weight, they may develop an eating disorder. A study of 1600 health club members found that of participants who indicated that they had an eating disorder, 76% had BDD as well. Results were published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders. Eating disorders have been described in a blog published by Enlightened Solutions as “an addictive relationship with self-destructive eating patterns.” 

While there are many types of eating disorders, three of the most common are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.

People suffering from anorexia restrict the number of calories they consume and the types of food that they eat. They may also exercise excessively and may use laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or diet aids in an effort to lose weight. Frequently, people with anorexia equate being thin with their self-worth. According to information found on the Mayo Clinic’s website, symptoms of anorexia include extreme weight loss, fatigue, hair loss, anemia, kidney problems, bone loss, and heart problems. In extreme cases, anorexia can result in sudden death from abnormal heart rhythms or electrolyte imbalance. 

People with bulimia binge and purge. They eat an amount that exceeds what someone without the disorder would eat in a two-hour period. Most people with bulimia purge by vomiting, although some will purge by fasting, exercising, or abusing laxatives or diuretics. People with bulimia use the restroom during or right after a meal and will sometimes avoid eating in public. Medical problems that can develop in people who have bulimia include tooth decay and gum damage, damage to the esophagus, electrolyte imbalance, low blood pressure, and heart problems.

According to the Enlightened Solutions website, binge-eating disorder is described as repeated episodes of “eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period.” People suffering from this condition frequently eat when they are not hungry, eat until they are uncomfortable, eat very quickly, and frequently eat alone because of feelings of shame. Physical problems caused by binge eating disorder include heart problems and obesity. 

Related Mental Health Issues and Substance Use Disorder

People who suffer from BDD frequently have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues as well. According to an article on BDD that appeared on the Mayo Clinic’s website, people with BDD often have major depression or other mood disorders, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, social anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Staff at Enlightened Solutions have noted shame, guilt, stress, and anxiety, and that many of their patients with BDD have experienced trauma at some point in their past. People suffering from BDD use the fixation on their perceived flaws as a way to cope with painful emotions and memories.

People suffering from BDD also frequently have substance use disorders as well. According to a study that looked at comorbid SUDs with BDDs, 68% of the subjects reported SUDs. Alcohol and cannabis were the most frequently abused. A study published in The International Journal of Eating Disorders had as participants women with different types of anorexia. The findings suggested that SUDs are more associated with “bulimic symptomology.” Among people with BDD who fixated on their weight, stimulants were the most commonly abused substances. People with BDD who muscle size and tone might abuse steroids.

Help Is Available

Fortunately, help is available for people suffering from BDD. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be particularly helpful because it helps you learn to challenge your negative thoughts about your body image, learn to handle your triggers without constantly looking in the mirror, and learn to generally improve your mental health.

While there are no medications specific to BDD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be helpful, as is following your treatment plan, keeping your appointments with your therapist, learning about BDD, practicing the skills that you learned in therapy, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and exercising (but not obsessively).

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), also called Body Image Disorder, is a serious mental and physical health issue. The disorder interferes with daily life and many people with BDD attempt suicide. People suffering from BDD often have other mental health issues and substance use disorders. BDD is one of the disorders treated at Enlightened Solutions and we can help you through a combination and traditional and alternative therapies. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment facility and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders like BDD. We are located in New Jersey and grounded in the 12-Step philosophy. We focus on healing the whole person and work to uncover and treat the underlying issues that are causing BDD. The holistic treatment modalities we offer include yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, nutrition education, equine therapy, and chiropractic work. If you or someone close to you is suffering from BDD, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


Changing Your Approach To Body Image

Body image is important for recovery. Anyone can struggle with poor body image. Having a low sense of self and self-perception can damage the way you have relationships and engage in intimacy throughout your life. Here are a few suggestions for changing your approach to your body image.

Make Sure Your Beliefs Are Consistent

You think you might see some kind of flaw in the mirror. Oh no, you think to yourself, I cannot have this! This makes me unattractive. Yet, you see it in a friend and think they’re so beautiful it doesn’t matter. Or, even more problematically you might think they aren’t very beautiful anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Your beliefs about yourself and about others have to be consistent. Most importantly, they consistently need to look something like this:

Everyone is beautiful.
All bodies are beautiful.
It’s okay to be okay with yourself and how  you look
Take A Healthy Look At Your Eating Behaviors

Paying attention to eating behaviors might sound like the opposite thing you need to do to shift body image from negative to positive. Food shouldn’t be assigned labels or emotions. There shouldn’t be “bad” foods and “good” foods which you either feel okay about or completely guilty about. Identifying the way you label and judge your food, as well as yourself when you eat, is important. What you eat directly influences how you feel. You either have to change the food you’re eating in a healthy and balanced way or change the way you feel about the food you’re eating.

Embrace the “All Food” and “All Exercise” Philosophy

What if there was a world where you didn’t have to do a certain workout for a certain number of time followed by a certain protein shake with certain ingredients? Imagine a life where you just ate, in a healthy and balanced way, and got at least 20 minutes of exercise, in a healthy and balanced way. That world is possible and you can create it. Obsessing over doing everything right in regards to diet and exercise can drive you crazy, cause you to be sick, and thwart your positive body image. Let the reins loose a little bit and enjoy the way you live your life, not punish yourself for it.

Give Yourself The Same Love You Give Others

When you compliment and admire someone for the way they look, turn those sentiments back toward yourself. Positive affirmations are a powerful tool for helping you build a more positive self-image and higher sense of self-esteem.

Enlightened Solutions offers holistic partial care programs designed to treat issues of body image and eating disorders in addition to any dual diagnosis issues with substance abuse. We have a solution. It starts with you. Start by calling us today for more information at 833-801-5483.


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3 Important Things You Need To Understand About Body Image

Body image issues are not gender specific. Both men and women can struggle with the way they perceive themselves and what they believe that means. You are worth more than how you look, no matter how you look. Your body is the only one you get. Learning to make peace with your physical form is an important part of spiritual healing.

  1. The Media Is Lying To You: That includes social media, as well. Pictures can be digitally altered from a smartphone now, to create what others will see as “perfect”. Currently, there are no regulations for American media when it comes to model BMI, digital alterations, or anything having to do with beauty. Largely that is because beauty companies, cosmetic companies, and fashion companies have a lot of money to spend on lobbying. Ex-executives and lawyers make up federal boards which continue to allow the media to sell the ideals of “perfect” “beautiful” and attractive. For men and women, what you see in print and on screen is often fake. Bodies which seem to be perfectly sculpted have a very particular life. They are paid to spend hours in the gym, training, exercising, and using sponsored nutritional supplements to support them. Most people don’t have that kind of time and certainly aren’t paid to have it.
  2. You’ll Never Be Perfect: Perfect doesn’t exist. If you’re trying to live up to fake images and ideals, you’ll never reach them. Most problematically, if you develop an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder along the way you won’t be able to see (or accept) your body for what it is. Thin will never be thin enough, sculpted will never be sculpted enough, and so forth.
  3. Diet And Exercise Are Parts Of A Whole, Not The Whole Part: You are not defined by what you eat, how you eat it, or how you exercise or how often. You are defined by the unique things about you which come from within: your character, your personality, your integrity, your spirit. Diet and exercise are not really lifestyle trends. They can be part of your lifestyle. An unhealthy obsession with either one is not a sign of a healthy lifestyle but an unhealthy one. There should always be room for indulgence, laziness, relaxation, and enjoying your life without rigid routine and restriction.

Enlightened Solutions is an integrative treatment program, providing partial care programs to men and women who are seeking recovery. Combining clinical therapy with holistic healing and 12 step philosophy, we provide a well balanced program for mind, body, and spirit. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483.


Billboards Have Nothing On Instagram For Body Image Damage

“Put your best face forward” is a cliche which has taken on a whole new meaning in the age of social media. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been criticized for promoting body shaming, and pro-anorexia communities. Instagram especially comes under fire as the “news feed” for the social media platform is 100% photos. It is easy to fill one’s newsfeed with nothing but photos of idealized perfection in models, celebrities, and more.

Self Editing

For the ultimate Instagram photo, there is a lot of editing involved. People even buy special backlit photo cases to be able to take the perfect “selfie”. Apps help people digitally edit their faces or their bodies to make it look more “perfect”. Many people argue that social media is damaging to self-esteem because people portray their real-life identities to the online identities of others. Recent research suggests that instagram might be more damaging to body image than big media mediums like billboards.

Social Media Comparison

According to theSydney Morning Herald, “research found women rarely compare their appearance to others’ in magazines or on billboards, and only sometimes compare their appearance to others’ on TV.” Women are more apt to make social media comparisons than any other, the research found, and social media comparisons describe the way young women are comparing themselves all the time.

The results of the study were startling. Women were asked to report how often they compared themselves to other women and social media and what their mood, body image perception, and thoughts about diet and/or exercise were like. “Women reported being in the worst mood after social media comparisons relative to other comparisons,” the study explains. “When women made social media comparisons, they also reported being unhappier with their appearance.” In addition, women were more “motivated” to start drastic weight loss regimens. All of these reactions were more extreme when women compared themselves against images on social media.

Body image can lead to a damaged sense of self-esteem and encourage extreme behaviors which can lead to the development of an eating disorder. Spending too much time online can be problematic. If you or a loved one are concerned about body image issues leading to an eating disorder, call Enlightened Solutions today. We provide dual diagnosis treatment for body image, eating disorder, and co-occurring substance disorders as well. For more information, call 833-801-5483.


Size Isn’t Everything

Imagine if the whole world ran on the principle of size the way that the fashion industry forces us to do. The entirety of the world’s systems would be changed. Classrooms wouldn’t run by age but perhaps by weight and height. Job promotions would be given out not based on performance but on shoe size or length of hair. Medical treatment in an emergency room might be based on shirt size rather than urgency. It might seem silly to think about. For the millions of men and women suffering from negative body image, size matters. In fact, size is everything.

Get Over the Size Thing

An obsession with size is literally waking up and making the decision on how worthy or unworthy one is based on what clothing size they will be able to fit into that day. If there was a daily regulatory process where everyone was weighed and measured, then told how they should a) feel about themselves b) feel about others and c) be treated by the rest of the world, there would be an outcry. Due to years of pressure from the fashion industry, unfortunately, many people feel that they deserve this kind of treatment. Sadly, they are unable to recognize that the only one stamping them with their daily evaluation is themselves.

According to a recent survey by Yahoo, 71% of women surveyed (about 1,000) didn’t even know what size clothing they should be wearing. However, when women don’t fit into the size they think they should, they experience shame, guilt, and disappointment. The size on their clothes, when it doesn’t fit the ideal standard, brings on feelings of shame about oneself and one’s body.

Ignore the Shaming

It really seems quite preposterous. Yet, mainstream society has created a valuation of women based on beauty, which is in part founded by size. Where did this madness start? Multiple documentaries like America The Beautiful have investigated. What lies beneath a global obsession for thinness is the penny pinching efforts of fashion labels. In an effort to save money on expensive fabrics being used for fashion shows, designers turned to models with smaller sizes in order to make smaller close, hence less fabric. That’s it. As a result, there’s a global insecurity with size, shape, and body image.

Enlightened Solutions is a certified dual diagnosis treatment facility offering care and recovery to those suffering from substance use disorders and mental health disorders such as an eating disorder. Body image, eating disorder, and substance abuse often come hand in hand. We’re here to help you find a healthy view on yourself, love yourself, and accept yourself again. For more information, call 833-801-5483 today.


Nature: It Does a Body (Image) Good

“The soul expands in response to what it sees”  - Anonymous

We see thousands of media advertisements every day. Digitally altered, these images are selling us on an unrealistic idea of perfection. Perfection according to mainstream media comes in different forms: perfect body, perfect partner, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect relationship, perfect smile, perfect home, perfect car, perfect kitchen, even perfect laundry. In regards to man made items, there is no such thing as perfect. Some philosophers romanticize the beauty of nature as being the only perfect creations in the world. Roses are remarked as being such a perfect creation, they are protected by thorns. Alice Walker once wrote, “in nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” Nature reminds us of our perfect imperfections. When we gaze at a landscape, it is doubtful we spend our time criticizing each imperfect detail of what we see. Instead, we marvel at the magnificence of nature’s whole- a respect we rarely pay to ourselves.

Spending time in nature is good for the mind, body, and spirit. We find ourselves relaxed when we disconnect from those relentless and rigorous demands of daily life and inundating media. Our blood pressure drops and our brain actually expands. New findings from Body Image journal suggest that spending time in nature helps us see ourselves in that very same broad acceptance. Nature enhances our perception of our own bodies.

Adults who spent more time in nature had higher scores in an evaluation of body appreciation. The evaluation included the level of respect one has for their body as well as their level of willingness to reject cultural norms and unreachable ideals perpetuated by the media. High self-esteem, connectedness, and feelings of “oneness” were also common in the adults with high exposure to nature. Positive body image directly correlated with the higher senses of self-esteem and connection.

Being in nature allows us to focus on what our body is capable of versus what is wrong with it- as dictated by daily media messages. As a result, we develop a greater sense of respect for our bodies, feeling physically empowered.

Enlightened Solutions sees the divine transformation of the spirit, mind, and body, that can take place through recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Our treatment programs for men and women offer a foundation in holistic practices, encouraging complete healing. There is hope. We have a solution. If you or a loved one are suffering, please call 833-801-5483 for more information.