For most people, taking a little bit of time in front of the mirror to be sure they look presentable is alright. After all, we want to be sure our hair is looking decent, makeup is in its place, and our clothes are presentable, but are you becoming obsessed with your appearance?
But when does the normal go to abnormal or obsession? Is the woman who spends two hours every morning applying makeup and doing her hair obsessed with her appearance? How about the man who obsesses over the shape of his nose and keeps going to plastic surgeons in order to “fix” it?
When normal body image concerns cross the line into more obsessive or abnormal concerns, mental health experts call this body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy defines BDD as “preoccupation with a defect in appearance, causing significant distress or interfering with social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
Essentially, when a person spends a significant amount of time and energy focusing on a defect or perceived flaw, it can really interfere with his or her life. In fact, they may consider themselves ugly, when in fact they are not ugly at all. It’s an irrational belief.
Appearance issues usually begin in the teen years, as teens can be tough on themselves and tough on each other. Not only are they trying to figure out who they are separate from their parents, but they are also trying to fit in with their peers and find acceptance. The stress of all of this can lead some teens to start becoming obsessed with their appearance.
Signs of appearance obsession
If you wonder if you or a friend is contending with appearance obsession, here are some telltale signs:
- Looking in the mirror many times each day
- Staring at yourself in the mirror or at a certain defect or flaw
- Not going out of the house or hanging with friends anymore because you are concerned about your appearance
- Only being able to go out in public after you’ve spent hours getting yourself ready
- Not being able to post any pictures on social media until you spend a lot of time finding that perfect one. Some spend hours snapping pictures to get that perfect one, which is a sign of obsession.
- Thinking about plastic surgery a great deal of the time
- Believing things about your body that others tell you is not true, like you’re fat, your hair is awful, teeth awful, nose crooked, etc.
With the world being so engrossed in social media sites like Facebook, it seems as if more and more people are concerned about their appearance. Many people snap photos daily to post on Facebook or Instagram and with so many pictures can raise concerns for how one looks. In addition, our society puts a lot of weight on how some celebrities look and many people become obsessed with trying to become like them. Sadly, our society can cause a certain type of image to become the norm, and men and women will put a lot of pressure on themselves to achieve that look.
Does it always end up as an obsession? No, but it’s something to be on the lookout for. Check in with yourself at times to see just how attached you are to other people’s opinions of yourself, as well as your own. Self-love is a goal worth going after, so embrace your whole self no matter what your appearance is. In fact, many find it attractive when you are confident in yourself regardless of characteristics or flaws.