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Megan Fox is opening up about her health and how a medical condition has affected how she sees herself.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, the Transformers the actress revealed that she has body dysmorphia, which Fox says caused her to see herself differently than the public’s perception.
“There’s never a point in my life where I’ve loved my body, never, ever,” Fox said in the interview.
“The journey to love myself will never end, I believe.”
Fox joins millions of other people around the world who suffer from this specific mental health condition.
According to the International OCD Foundation, between 5 and 10 million people in the United States alone are affected by body dysmorphia. The Cleveland Clinic also points out that women are affected to a greater extent (2.5%) than men (2.2%).
While there is no cure for body dysmorphia, treatment is essential as the disorder can get worse over time.
From the aspect of living with body dysmorphia to the treatment options available to you, here’s everything you need to know about the condition.
What is body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition in which a person is obsessed with a perceived defect that can become overwhelming and “difficult to control,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Karla Buchholz, an Edmonton-based registered interim psychologist, says the caveat is that the flaw is often not noticed by others.
“The concern would be considered clinically significant if it creates distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning,” she explained to Narcity.
As something of a rule of thumb, Buchholz says that spending three to eight hours a day on a worry that’s hard to resist would indicate body dysmorphia.
It’s also important to understand that BDD is not an eating disorder.
The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation states that someone with an eating disorder is concerned about their body weight and shape and will therefore try to lose weight.
Meanwhile, a person with BDD typically isn’t concerned about their weight, but rather fixates on “specific areas of concern” and may limit what they eat to address “perceived flaws.”
There are two subtypes of BDD, including muscle dysphoria, which causes a person to have negative thoughts about their body size and, more specifically, the appearance of their muscles. Then there’s BDD by proxy, which involves a person becoming overly concerned with “perceived imperfections with another person’s appearance,” as noted by the International OCD Foundation.
What causes body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia can be caused by a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors.
Buchholz says it can range from things like being abused, bullied, neglect, trauma, and fear of being rejected or abandoned.
“Perfectionism, often associated with social pressures, good looks, comparisons to others, and family history, can also give you a genetic predisposition,” she added.
While the Cleveland Clinic says BDD can develop at any age, it often begins in the early teens, as it did for Fox.
In her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit interview, the actress shared that her “obsession” with her looks started at a very young age.
“Why I had an awareness of my body so young I’m not sure and it definitely wasn’t environmental because I grew up in a very religious environment where bodies weren’t even recognized,” Fox shared.
What are the signs of body dysmorphia?
A person with BDD can become obsessed with any part of their body. However, Johns Hopkins Medicine says the most common areas include the face, hair, skin, chest and stomach.
Some symptoms of body dysmorphia include:
- Constantly checking yourself in the mirror
- Avoid mirrors
- Skin collection
- Constantly comparing yourself to others
- Attempt to hide the body part with something like a hat, scarf, or makeup
- Avoid social activities
- Having unnecessary plastic surgery
- Feeling anxious, depressed or ashamed
- Contemplating suicide
How bad is body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia can become severe, especially if a person with it does not get help.
Buchholz says a person with BDD can become so fixated on their perceived flaw that it could lead to suicidal thoughts.
“About 20% of adolescents may drop out of school due to body dysmorphia, and 80% of people may report suicidal thoughts and 25% may attempt suicide at some point in their lives,” he added.
The registered psychologist points out that there is less support out there for younger people, which is why seeking treatment and having a strong social support system is so important.
How do you treat body dysmorphia?
There is no cure for BDD, but it can be treated in a variety of ways.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Ann Kearney-Cooke explained why seeking help is so important for people diagnosed with body dysmorphia.
It doesn’t actually get better on its own, and if left untreated, it can actually get worse over time, the Cincinnati psychologist said in the interview.
Buchholz reiterated the importance of getting help for BDD and said a starting point would be screening for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use.
Mental health support is also highly encouraged.
“Being able to access mental health support is incredibly valuable for people of all ages because this starts so young and can continue into an older adult,” said the Canadian interim psychologist.
“I know some people who prefer individual therapy, others prefer group therapy with consistent tasks to keep them constantly accountable and working on these things.”
In addition to mental health support, Buchholz says cognitive behavioral therapy is also helpful, as is dialectical behavior therapy, which “balances our rational side with our emotional side so we can find the middle ground.”
Other helpful treatments include mindfulness, stress management, relaxation therapies, and solution-focused therapy.
Some doctors may also prescribe certain medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant.
Before taking medications or seeking certain therapies, a person who has BDD is advised to meet with their doctor, who can put them on the right path to getting the help they need.
If you or someone you know has depression or mental health issues, reach out to a trusted colleague, parent or healthcare professional. You can also contact Crisis Services Canada’s 24-hour helpline or consult these additional resources. If you need immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Support is available.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of harming yourself, reach out to a trusted colleague, parent, or healthcare provider. You can also contact Crisis Services Canada’s 24-hour helpline or consult these additional resources. If you need immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Support is available.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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