Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder in which a person obsesses over flaws in their appearance. The flaws may be real or not. A person with body dysmorphia also often avoids other people because of feeling such embarrassment & even shame over their flaws. They also may seek surgery or other ways of fixing these supposed flaws in their appearance. The solutions may only provide temporary relief, but often the anxiety over the flaws returns.
Body dysmorphia can result from abnormalities or injuries to the brain. A family history of the disorder also can lead to a person being prone to developing it. I believe it also can be the result of narcissistic abuse.
Negative comments about something can be hurtful. If they are negative enough, they can make a person feel very self conscience. Narcissists don’t simply say a few random negative comments periodically, however. They frequently say the most scathing, cruel, vicious criticisms they can come up with in order to annihilate their victim’s self esteem, because a person with no self esteem is easy to control. One area narcissists often focus on is someone’s appearance.
Naturally when a parent says such things to their child, the likelihood of that child accepting the criticisms as truth is greater than if those same words were spoken to an adult by a stranger. Parents have a tremendous influence over their children, & children naturally accept what their parents say as true, even when it isn’t. Children’s brains are still forming too, which also makes it easier for them to accept their parents’ words as truth rather than question them.
When a child of a narcissistic parent grows up, it’s very likely that they will marry a narcissist. It’s also likely that the narcissist they marry will repeat certain patterns that their parents employed. Insulting the adult child of narcissistic parents in the area of their appearance is a common phenomenon.
When I was growing up, my mother was extremely critical of how I looked. While she never said the word “fat”, she implied I was extremely fat more times than I can count. Looking back at pictures of me as a child now though I realize I wasn’t fat at all, I was a normal weight.
Later when I married my ex husband, he continued her abuse in this area. He also never told me I was fat, but constantly implied that I needed to lose weight. I eventually lost weight & was too thin, yet I still wasn’t thin enough for his liking.
My situation is far from abnormal among adult children of narcissistic parents.
If you have experienced this as well, know that you are far from alone! Many people who have suffered with Body Dysmorphia after experiencing narcissistic abuse.
I never went to therapy about this because I didn’t realize it was something treatable through therapy, plus after bad experiences in therapy, I lacked trust in the mental health system. This caused me to look for my own ways to conquer Body Dysmorphia. While therapy is most likely the most effective way, I thought I would share my ideas anyway in case anyone reading this prefers to handle the situation on their own as I did.
During the time I was going through the worst of the Body Dysmorphia, I didn’t believe in God. Prayer wasn’t going to happen. I wish I had because no doubt God would have helped me so much more than anything I did without Him! Please learn from my mistake & pray.
Also, listen to what other people tell you. I spent my entire life dismissing complements rather than accepting them with a simple “thank you.” People don’t give complements easily. Listen to what they say because they mean them!
Look at yourself objectively. Ask yourself if what the narcissist said makes any sense. Most likely, it won’t.
When you hear the narcissist telling you about all of your flaws, question those things.
Doing these things won’t make Body Dysmorphia disappear overnight. Sometimes I wonder if it’ll ever vanish entirely since even years later, I still am quite insecure about my looks. But, at the very least they will help you to feel much less insecure, & that isn’t a bad worst case scenario!