Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Mick’s Story

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Mick’s Story:

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can happen when people become overly concerned or bothered by something about their physical appearance. It is not about being self-obsessed or vain. People with BDD usually feel ashamed about how they look. A Deaf guy, Mick opens up about his experience with BDD and reflects on how he is coming to terms with it.

Video Title: Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Mick’s Story

[Opening scene: 

“Deaf Counseling” with its logo appears on the upper right corner.

A banner appears at the bottom of the screen from the start of the video, for about three seconds, “Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Mick’s Story. Deaf Counseling Center.”

A man is seen from the waist up, sitting in front of a whiteboard. The white board has “BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER” in capital letters written by a black marker. He is the only person throughout the video and never moves from his spot. He is wearing a short-sleeved dark gray T-shirt with a large graphic logo in the center. The logo is outlined in white, a hollow cone with a short horizontal straight line through it on one side. He is wearing a black rectangular eyeglasses, short-cropped gray hair and neatly trimmed gray beard with no mustache. On both of his arms, he has tattoos of a flower pattern from the wrists up.]


– Hello! My name is Mick. 

I am here to describe my experience with 

[points to the whiteboard] BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER, abbreviated BDD. 

What does that mean? While there is a wide range of definitions, there is one definition in common: it means one’s view of one’s own physical body, from head to toe, is viewed negatively. Not only negatively, but obsessively dissatisfied with it for a long time. Another main characteristic is seeing one’s own body differently than the actual body. 

For example, the body is actually thin when the person thinks the body is grossly fat, like 300 pounds. The mind does not separate the imagination and the actual appearance. 

It’s not only a size issue. It can be about a hair color, eye color, the nose shape—anything related to the body. It can be about the shape and face. Some folks with BDD are obsessed with the size of their fingers, thinking they’re too small or too big. Those are included in a range of BDD symptoms. 

That’s putting it in a nutshell. 

I am willing to share my experience. It was started by a trauma. While I was growing up, I was actively involved in many different sports. I’m talking about before the age of ten years. In addition to that, I loved food, and I kept eating a lot. 

My parents felt that I was eating too much. Even though I was playing sports, I was gaining weight. So, I grew up with constant lectures from my parents: “Stop eating!” “You’re fat.” “You will get fatter.” “Fat is not attractive.” Those words were instilled in me. 

I remember…When I was about 8 years old, I watched wrestling on TV. You know, these wrestlers tend to have huge muscular bodies. I remember saying to my dad, “I hope when I grow up, I will work out like the wrestlers on TV, having the same muscle size and strength as them.” My dad looked at me skeptically and said, “You’re fat. You eat too much. You won’t be like them. Plus, you’re lazy.” That made an impact on me and caused a turmoil within myself. 

From that point on, I stopped looking at myself in the mirror. The only time I looked in a mirror was when I was putting on a tie, which I couldn’t do from memory. I had to look in a mirror for that. Still, I avoided looking at my face. I kept focusing on the tie, in the chest and neck area. 

Even for shaving, I learned how to do it without a mirror. 

Back then, I didn’t have much of a beard, so it was a breeze to shave. 

In all the years since, when I walked past a mirror, I would deliberately avoid looking at it, especially in public places. 

You know, clothing stores have mirrors for trying on clothes. 

I would refuse to look at the mirrors. I detested trying on clothes in a dressing room because I knew there would be mirrors in there, and I did not want to look at myself. 

As a result, my perception became more detached from reality. Remember I mentioned how I kept up with my sports activities? I did lift weights a lot when I was younger. 

I had imagined that if I lifted weights and played sports like them, my body probably would become like the wrestlers I had seen. Then, later on, when I saw myself in the mirror, 

I was disoriented. The reflection was not what I had envisioned of myself, and I stopped working out. 

That became part of the cycle which included mania episodes when I would be sensitive with my appearance. 

Meaning, I would feel great when I worked out for a few weeks, maybe two or three months. Then, when I unexpectedly saw myself in a mirror, for instance, in a locker room or in a changing room before going into a pool or something like that. I was shocked when I saw myself. It all goes back to my overeating habit many years ago, which was rooted in the trauma from verbal abuse on top of other traumas from other situations while I was growing up. I was not becoming the person I thought I would be in a physical sense. 

Unfortunately, that was important to me because I had an expectation from watching professional athletes’ muscle-toned bodies—the football players, basketball players, and hockey players—I saw they were so fit! 

I had the impression that I was identical to them since I played sports and lifted weights like they did—but without proper nutrition. I was very confused. So, during my mania stage, 

I would be rigorously lifting weights for three months until I saw myself in the mirror, get confused, crash, and stop lifting weights for a few months. I would then slowly return to it with much effort. As you know, it’s hard to get back after a few months of inactivity. This cycle happened many times. 

As I reflect, I have a lot of wear and tear on my body because each time I went back to weight lifting, I would rush to reach the level I previously had. The amount of weight that I lifted contributed to the wear and tear. Now I am dealing with injury issues on my elbow and knee. So when I lift weights now, I have to take it easy. 

I also tried various diets, thinking it would work. All of them failed me because there was always something that’s restricted. They required eliminating certain foods. Although I was taught to eat in moderation—having a little sweet is okay, that I knew—but I was afraid that if I eat…

(a bowl of ice cream a night, I knew I would not gain weight from it)…If I overeat by eating a few slices of pizza, I would be constantly thinking that I must do cardio on that night. 

Then on that night, typically, I was already too tired from the day, and I couldn’t do the cardio workout. Exhausted, I would lay in bed worrying about the pizza I ate turning into fat and about gaining body mass at the next day. 

These thoughts would repeat nonstop. All of these thoughts would be negative. Notice that there is nothing positive in what I just said. That’s a part of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. 

There was absolutely nothing positive in my thinking on how I looked. Nothing. Now, I’ve gotten better at it. I still have a ways to go to improve, but the one drastic change that I did was to stop figuring out my workout plans, making health plans, and diet plans. These were put into a complete stop. 

I am now conscious of what to eat, what to avoid, and what to eat in moderation. 

But the change was made possible by addressing the trauma which was my experience with my father when I was eight years old. I had never told anyone about it until recently. 

A few months ago, I finally released that story out of my system. As a result, many of the symptoms, especially the negativity, went away. I lost weight immediately after that. 

I stopped overeating. My appetite—actually my urge to eat was masking the trauma—stopped. It actually ceased. 

Oh, it was a huge change! I was astounded. Once I disclosed (the trauma) out of my system, these repressed feelings… 

It was hard to get them out because my dad himself is not a bad person. My dad, for the most part, looked out for my best interest. But, when it comes to eating, he had a serious beef about it (no pun intended!). He had a beef with that. Still to this day, I don’t understand why. My dad is not obese and does not have health problems. It was just his own personal issue in that it really bothered him to see me eat a lot even though I was physically active. I really don’t know—it’s weird. It was the only thing that was related to my BDD or any kind of mental health challenges. Sometimes we will never understand. 

But the best thing to do is focus on self-improvement as much as I can. 

It’s still a daily battle. I still am conscious of eating carefully. 

I have to remind myself that it is okay to eat a little bit more. 

If I want a small slice of chocolate cake, it is okay. 

It won’t kill me or give me a lot of pounds. It’s a daily battle in my head. And if I don’t do anything active for a few days, my mood becomes irritable because my body feels like it’s regressing back to square one. I have to keep reminding myself that it usually takes longer for the body to actually regress, if you know what I mean. Regardless, my mind keeps telling me that I must burn off anything that I eat. 

These thoughts happen every day. In the few months since I revealed the experience, I’ve been looking at myself in the mirror a little more. I can barely recognize myself. 

It’s like, “Wow, that’s what I look like! Oh!” 

I hadn’t known. I am now 40 years old. All these years, from eight years old up to just before 40 years old (so that’s about 32 years!), of not really looking at myself in the mirror. 

I had no idea what I looked like. Well, I had seen a picture of myself, but my mind was detached from my own image. 

I would always say, “It’s a bad angle,” or blame the camera. 

I would make up some excuse. 

Again, it’s an ongoing issue in my head which I have to address every day. I have my own coping strategies. I have to do a lot of self-talk, giving myself positive affirmations and push away negative thoughts. As long as I keep pushing them away, the cycle does not start. I get none of that cycle. 

Thank you for the opportunity to explain my experience. Remember that Body Dysmorphic Disorder comes in a wide range of symptoms. If you feel dissatisfied with the way you look or your body, there’s always a way to get support. 

Good! Thank you. 

Scene changes to a disclaimer screen for a few seconds then it fades out to Deaf Counseling Center’s motion graphics as a video closer.



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