Dysmorphophobia is surprisingly common and debilitating.
Most of us like to keep a safe distance from snakes and well away from the edge of a skyscraper.
But for many people, just seeing a picture of a snake or thinking about the top of a skyscraper is paralyzing.
And its the same with dysmorphophobia. Sometimes just a passing thought of deformity can set off a panic attack.
Most of us have some fears but normally they don’t affect our lives. Eventually we get past our fears as the mind learns that actually everything is OK. But people with severe fears and phobias like dysmorphophobia (which is in fact the formal diagnostic term for dysmorphophobia) are held prisoner by an irrational feeling of panic.
Most folks with phobias, including dysmorphophobes, generally realize that their fears are unfounded or excessive, but they’re unable to overcome them – because the ‘rules’ which govern their response are at an unconscious level.
The presence of actual physical symptoms of dysmorphophobia makes it even more difficult. Given how unpleasant that can be, it’s hardly surprising that most people with dysmorphophobia simply learn to avoid the deformity situations that frighten them.
But avoidance is not the best way to cope with any phobia. Besides the limitations on your life, having an untreated anxiety disorder may leave you more vulnerable to psychological disorders like depression or alcohol abuse. A phobia can also strain your relationships with friends, relatives, and coworkers.
Mercifully dysmorphophobia can now be overcome quickly and easily if you choose the right approach.
Read on to understand how the fear actually works inside your mind and nervous system, and how Dysmorphophobia can be overcome
Do you get the shakes when you think about deformity? Do you feel queasy, or light-headed? Does your mouth go dry, does your head spin, or does your face go red or sweaty? Do you feel sick or out of control? Learn about these and the many other symptoms of dysmorphophobia.
About the Fear
The actual feelings of Dysmorphophobia are extremely common. Far more so than you might think: while the exact ‘trigger’ for everyone’s fear is different, over 13% of all adults experience the symptoms regularly, rising to over 60% under specific circumstances.
And yet this is a problem you can quickly and permanently conquer – just as long as you are really committed to doing so. Conquering the fear means saying goodbye once and for all to that nasty feeling and discovering the steps to switch on the calm, centered, confident you.
No. There’s Nothing Wrong with You
The first thing to understand is that there’s nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all. Creating positive and negative emotional associations is a perfectly normal (and crucially important) function of your brain. We will simply show you how to take control of those associations – how to turn them to your benefit.
What Causes The Fear?
You were not born with dysmorphophobia. Somehow, you ‘learned’ the fear from one or more unpleasant experiences.
If your history is like many of the clients we’ve worked with over the years, you may not even remember how it all started. But still you’ve probably found yourself shaking or anxious or red-faced or sweaty… or any combination of these and other symptoms of dysmorphophobia
That’s because there’s a part of your brain that thinks it recognizes ‘danger’ (based on previous nasty experiences), and which switches you into ‘fight or flight’ mode. That’s the pounding heart. Not very useful when you really want to be calm, relaxed, and clear-headed.
Perhaps it all started when you were very young – or perhaps the fear was triggered by an unpleasant experience when you were in school, or more recently in work or at a social event.
It’s different for everybody. Some find it grows over time, or seems to appear out of nowhere.
The good news is that there is no need to know where your dysmorphophobia comes from in order to get rid of it.
It really doesn’t matter where it came from. It doesn’t matter whether or not you remember how it started. Unlike many traditional therapies which may occupy many weeks discussing ‘why’ the problem is there, we are much more interested in ‘how’ your mind creates the fear (do you have pictures or movies in your mind, or do you say things to yourself as you get the feeling?). That way we can quickly show you how to change.
Why ‘Facing Your Fear’ is a Really Bad Idea
Many clients come to us having taken programs that involve some kind of ‘exposure therapy’.. The idea is that by facing the fear more and more you should ‘get used to’ deformity – a process technically known as ‘desensitization’.
All of these programs are well-meaning of course – and are sometime successful, to a degree. But the process is often unnecessarily unpleasant.
The risk of exposure & desensitization therapy is reinforcing the negative association – actually making the problem worse. What we repeat, we reinforce:
Expose yourself over and over again to something you fear, and you can simply build up more and more evidence for the mind that deformity = fear.
You’ll understand if you’ve ever had ‘that Monday morning feeling’: do Monday mornings get better just by repeating them?
To change a negative association you need to do more than simply repeat activities you don’t enjoy.