Last year, one of the stars of the hit show Modern Family publicly shared his story of how a body image disorder impacted his life. Reid Ewing, who plays Dylan on the ABC sitcom, endured multiple cosmetic surgeries to correct what he saw as flaws in his facial structure. The actor now knows that he was suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, defined by someone becoming obsessed with perceived flaws in their physical appearance. For Ewing, the focus of his BDD was his face; for others, their BDD may focus on muscular physique, unwanted hair, or skin blemishes as examples.
While anyone could likely point out a part of their body they’d like to change, people with BDD are relentlessly focused on their “flaws” to the point it interferes with their life. Hours of each day are spent studying the body part, finding ways to hide perceived problem, and thinking of ways to correct it. Closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, BDD can take over a person’s thoughts to the point where they are unable to attend school, work or social events.
You may be wondering why a BDD sufferer does not realize how out-of-proportion their worries are. Wouldn’t hearing from others help offset these negative body images? It’s easy to believe that if a friend thinks her nose is too big, a compliment about her beauty would help take away that worry. Sadly, most people with BDD show poor insight into their condition. In other words, they believe what they are seeing is true and no input from a well-meaning friend will change that belief.
And BDD is relentless. Sufferer Lindsey Hall says BDD is like having, “a mosquito in your ear — a buzz from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.”
But BDD does not have to limit your life. Treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medications, are available that can bring BDD symptoms under control. Just last week, a hopeful message about long-term treatment of BDD was presented in a study from Mass General Hospital. While thoughts may persist, learning how to cope with them does become easier and more manageable.
If you think you may be experiencing BDD, you may want to take this free online screening quiz offered by the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.
Reid Ewing’s story is a reminder that BDD does not have to take over your life and that recovery is possible. The actor continues to make appearances on Modern Family and is currently in college. Ewing is inspiring men and women suffering from BDD to do the truly modern thing: get treated.