Body dysmorphia is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with and can be especially detrimental for intimacy. For those who aren’t sure what body dysmorphia is, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America…
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness which causes people to constantly obsess over real or perceived flaws. Flaws can be found anywhere on the body, but the most common locations include hair, skin, nose, chest, and stomach. Body Dysmorphic Disorder — or body dysmorphia, affects all genders.
Signs of body dysmorphia can include…
- Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
- Excessive grooming
- Frequently seeking cosmetic procedures
- Constant comparing one’s appearance to others
- Wearing baggy clothing for the purpose of “camouflaging” perceived flaws
- Avoiding going into public out of the fear of being mocked for these perceived physical flaws
Causes of the disorder are still being researched, but the most common beliefs as to what’s behind this disorder include differences in the brain, genetic makeup (especially from relatives who have obsessive-compulsive disorder), and environmental factors such as childhood abuse or neglect.
Becoming comfortable with your body, especially with body dysmorphia, is a very intimate process. This can make the prospect of sex especially intimidating. Sex creates an environment in which your body is seen in a new light. For those with dysmorphia, this may seem like an experience you’re not cut out for. However, sex can still be enjoyable and confidence-building for those with body dysmorphia. Everyone deserves an incredible sexual experience, and no one is any less deserving simply because of mental illness or personal issues.
For those with body dysmorphia, there are things you can try to take the reins on your sexual experience. Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Be honest with your partner about what you’re experiencing.
There will be nothing your partner can say to cure your body dysmorphia, but there are small things you can do together to help you cope with it. For example, I experience body dysmorphia around my stomach. However, my boyfriend will sometimes play with it, lay on it, and make cutesy remarks about it that. Even if the effects were only short-term, it made me feel more at ease about my insecurities. Talking about my insecurity with my boyfriend offered him a guide on how to support me better. It was one of the best decisions I feel I’ve made.
2. Talk to someone.
Speak with someone who isn’t your partner, who can help you get to the root of your body dysmorphia and help you actively recover/cope with it. If possible, seek the assistance of a licensed therapist (especially if they specialize in the area of body dysmorphia disorders). Be completely honest about how you’re feeling about your body (even if it sometimes feels embarrassing) to get your money’s worth out of the therapy, and work with your therapist to set goals for achieving a better body image. If not a therapist, vent to a well-trusted friend who will help hold you accountable.
3. Get to know your body yourself.
You can stand in front of a mirror, nude, to get used to seeing yourself in that light. Try masturbating, with or without porn, to become more confident in what you like and to become accustomed to seeing your body as a sexual entity.
4. Follow people on social media that advocate for realistic body types.
One of my personal favorites that helps me is @saggysara on Instagram, who shows how with the right posing and lighting, anyone on social media can look like a “typical model,” but also how she normally looks, unposed with a natural body that is beautiful.
5. Open yourself up to sex with your partner through smaller steps.
Start off gradually! You don’t have to go all in at once if you’re not fully comfortable. Begin with things such as: letting your partner finger you, perform oral, or engaging in mutual masturbation. As you get more comfortable, try to start shedding more clothes. Eventually, once you become more confident in sexual acts, that’ll matter more than how you feel that your body looks.
6. Do all that you can in your free time to nurture body acceptance.
Reframe your thoughts about your body and remind yourself that your body is allowed to be unique and beautiful at the same time. It’ll take a LOT of time to believe it, but it’ll definitely be worth all of the time it takes.
For more information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder, you can visit ADDA.org.
Photos by Daisy Rosato. To view more of their work, you can click here.