My homework assignment from my CBT session last week was to recognize when I was having a BDD thought. I didn’t need to change my reaction to these thoughts or even write them down, I just needed to notice when I thought them, take a second to acknowledge this, and then move on.
My therapist and I made a list of my typical BDD thoughts, and I want to share a few of them with you:
· I am ugly
· I am unattractive
· I am unworthy
· I need to make up for how I look by having an above average personality (being extra nice, bubbly, happy and/or accommodating)
· People are going to talk about me behind my back because of how I look
I’m sure some of you who are struggling with body image/eating disorders will recognize these mantras. Not all of these things run through my head at the same time, and it is not a constant dialogue in my brain (it used to be, but thanks to medication these thoughts have decreased significantly), but they do pop up multiple times a day. In the past week, when the thoughts did arise, I would say “okay, BDD, I hear you. You think I’m ugly, and that person over there is going to talk about me behind my back. Thanks for the input,” and I would move on.
I found that simply recognizing these thoughts as what they are ~ BDD thoughts ~ automatically helped stopped my typical reactions, which usually consist of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety and the triggering of BDD-related compulsions. This acknowledgment forces me to recognize the thoughts as something outside of myself, something separate from reality. It has taken the negativity and sequestered it in a small thought bubble, which I can actively fight.
And this is the key. It’s incredibly hard to fight something that is within you, that IS you. In the past, I couldn’t fight my BDD because, to me, it was reality. You can’t fight negative thoughts when all of your thoughts are negative. Now, I am able to categorize the thoughts in my brain – BDD thoughts versus all other thoughts. It is preparing me for the next phase, which will be to (hopefully) eradicate the negative thoughts, leaving only the positive behind.
My homework assignment for this week is actually kind of amusing, since last week I mentioned that simply stepping back from the mirror would not cure BDD. Well, that’s exactly what I have to do this week ~ take a few steps back from the mirror and recognize how I look overall, instead of focusing in on what I see as my flaws. Again, this is not going to completely erase my BDD, but it is a step in the right direction (pun not intended, but noted).
This, plus continuing my thought recognition should help me further understanding the discontinuity between what I see in the mirror and what others see when they look at me.
Full speed ahead!!! *insert CHAAAAARGE music here*