Body dysmorphia is a topic that relates to a lot of us. Some may have come to terms with it and some may not even realise they have a problem. I personally didn't think I had a problem for a long time.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness characterised by constant worrying over perceived or slight defect in appearance. BDD usually starts in the teenage years, when concern over physical appearance is common.
This mental illness comes in many different forms and effects both girls and guys. With the rise of social media, BDD is extremely common. Hence the reason we have seen a massive influx in cosmetic enhancements & surgery such as breast implants, lip fillers, botox & steroids.
My personal experience with BDD which I still struggle with to this day is my physique. I started hitting the gym back when I was 15....probably after watching the movie Never Back Down and wanting to look like Cam Gigandet. The big problem with me starting to body build when I was 15 is that I would constantly compare myself to older guys in the gym & become frustrated because I was one of the smaller guys in the gym. What I didn't really understand at the time was the fact that I had barely hit puberty & my ability to build muscle was far inferior to the 21 year old guys around me. This lead to me always searching for ways that would speed up the process of building muscle. I would chug down weight gainer shakes & train for hours on end.
After 3 years of training, when I was 18 a few guys that I would train with in the gym started to talk about taking pro-hormones an over the counter oestrogen blocker that promised strength and muscle gains in 4 weeks. These supplements were actually developed for breast cancer patients. When oestrogen is blocked in the male body, testosterone levels can rise and essentially this allows for strength & muscle gains. Being a curious and ambitious teenager, I disregarded the side effects and decided to jump on a 4 week cycle. Over the 4 weeks I increased in strength by about 25% and put on a few kgs of muscle. But as with all performance enhancing drugs the results are short lived and I slowly returned to my natural state.
This is where things become complicated mentally. Naturally having an alpha male mentality I hated going backwards and I think this is the case for a lot of guys. I had to make the conscious choice to not continue taking pro-hormones or any other performance enhancing drugs to chase these quick gains. For good reason too, messing around with your hormones as a teenager is a Russian Roulette, you really don't know how it will effect your development, to this day I still question if it did or not...
My next stupid decision was around the time I turned 19. I was obsessed with trying to get super lean and having an insane six pack. I was taking fat burning pre workouts and eating really clean. I was already pretty lean, however a guy that I talked to in the gym convinced me I was wasting my time and money using store bought fat burners and slaving away with my diet and cardio. He talked me into trying clenbuterol, a drug designed to treat asthma & lean out race horses. It basically puts your body into flight and fight mode by increasing noradrenaline and epinephrine. Yes it can cause you to have a heart attack.....But hey I was young and dumb and put my appearance above my health.
This was kind of the turning point for me though. My Mum actually found the vial and she was PISSED!! We had a long hard talk about my obsession with trying to build the "perfect body" and how unhealthy it was for not only physically but mentally. At first I was in a bit of denial, but eventually I came to terms with it all and started to back off from going to the gym so much and started to focus on my health instead of my appearance.
I'm 25 now so it's been over 6 years since that "phase" in my life. As with every mistake I've made in life, I look at it as a positive and a learning experience. I still struggle with BDD. I'm happy with my body, but the big problem is I'm scared to loose it. For years I've been this 6 foot 2 guy with an athletic build. I know that eventually as I get older this is going to fade away and I need to be OK with that.
I always try to put my health first these days. I don't take any supplements and I try to eat a lot of whole foods and focus on my gut health. I also take mental health very seriously. I don't take any drugs and I always take the time to check myself if I'm feeling off.
BDD is a pretty serious mental illness & I think it's important for everyone to try come to terms with it if they are struggling in anyway. There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, but you have to learn to love yourself in it's natural state. It's a touchy subject because I know so many girls and guys that are doing things to enhance their appearance, whether it be with makeup, cosmetic surgery or steroids. Above all, health should always be the priority and if you are going to make the decision to do anything, you should weigh up if what you are doing is going to be bad for your mental and physical health.
As I'm getting older I'm quickly learning to appreciate the small things in life and to be happy and content with what I have. Life is all about perspective, whether I'm partying with celebrities out in Miami or having a lunch at a quite restaurant with my Nana, both experiences are amazing and they shouldn't be taken for granted.
A little reminder, we are all beautiful in our unique ways. Learn to embrace your flaws, hold your head high and live life with confidence. We can be our own worst enemies at times. We also need to take the time to compliment the people around us and remind them of how special they are. Life is short and precious, we don't have time to waste on being unhappy!
If you have a Son, Daughter, friend or family member that might be having issues with BDD share this blog with them and try to help them put things into perspective. BDD can vary in different levels and should be taken extremely seriously. Please reach out to friends and family for help and call the Beyond Blue Hotline for professional advice & counselling 1300 22 4636