Ep. 5 - Body Dysmorphia for Someone Else? Explaining BDD by Proxy
July 24th, 2022
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Doug: If you feel that body image issues have too much of an impact in your life, if you try and fail regularly to be kind to that image of yourself in the mirror, if just looking at a photo of yourself makes you feel physically terrible, or if all you want to do is be able to love yourself, lean in my friend and get excited.
This is your invitation to a life where you can love your body. Where body image issues don’t control you, where you can feel at peace with how you look and where you can live without that negative self talk draining you every day. This isn’t fiction. It’s a reality that thousands of people have already reached.
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[00:02:11] Doug: This is the body dysmorphia recovery podcast, where we explore powerful resources to help you heal body dysmorphia and the harmful eating patterns and help you live your normal life after BDD. Even better, we’re doing it without waiting weeks or even months to get treatment. My name is Doug Sands and I’m your body dysmorphia hypnotist.
On this show, you’re getting cutting edge methods to wipe out BDD once and for all. You’re also getting interviews with leading treatment experts for BDD, body image issues, and disordered eating. We’re giving you tools to work through all areas of body dysmorphia and to get it out of your life once and for all.
Get ready my friend, because this show may change your life for good. Let’s get started.[00:03:00]
[00:03:03] Doug: Welcome back to the Body Dysmorphia Recovery Podcast. My name is Doug Sands, I’m the hypnotist and the host of this show. And this episode, we’re exploring BDD by proxy. Now, BDD by proxy is one of two main subtypes of body dysmorphia. Those two subtypes are muscle dysmorphia and BDD by proxy. And if you haven’t listened to our episode on muscle dysmorphia, I highly recommend that you download that as well.
While you’re there, subscribe. Click that subscribe button because you won’t want to miss out on what’s coming next. So with that, remember as a disclaimer, this is not to be taken as a diagnosis or as medical advice. This is simply information that you can use to start making changes in your life. So with that, let’s dive into it.
What is body dysmorphia by proxy? Essentially, this is feeling all the symptoms of BDD, but when you look at other people’s bodies. This seems odd, but remember, this is your brain creating a false perception. And to your brain, it doesn’t [00:04:00] really matter if you have BDD for your own reflection or for someone else’s.
This may be combined with self BDD as well. Perhaps you’re just noticing the flaws in everyone. BDD by proxy may be caused by the exact same issues that cause BDD in general. Sometimes it’s just about shifting that focus from yourself to others. However, it may have specific causes and there haven’t been as many studies done on BDD by proxy as BDD in general.
So we still have many questions about what causes this issue in particular. Now, much of the information for BDD by proxy is the same as that for BDD. So if you haven’t yet listened to previous episodes where we explore body dysmorphia in further detail, I highly recommend you go back and listen to those first.
In this episode, we’re exploring just what applies to this subtype. As I mentioned, BDD by proxy is often caused by the same underlying issues. It has a strong link to OCD and perfectionism. And it’s marked by a feeling of fear, [00:05:00] discomfort, or even anxiety because of that perceived flaw. And this can cause innumerable problems.
BDD by proxy is exhausting. It makes you seem like a really mean person as well when you try to help people because it seems like you’re just picking on them. And it can also draw your attention and your focus away from important parts of your life. Perhaps it strikes in a job interview and you can’t focus on what they’re saying, because you’ve noticed a flaw in their appearance.
This might cause fights with friends or loved ones because you’re so busy focusing on those perceived flaws. When talking about BDD by proxy, researchers have labeled the person under scrutiny as the person of concern. The person of concern or POC may be a family member, a friend, or romantic partner, or even a complete stranger.
And this may stay consistent. Maybe there’s only one person and that stays consistent for years. It might be a mother who’s fixated on her only child’s appearance. Now, the person of concern may shift as well, or it may [00:06:00] include multiple people. For some with this issue, it applies to anyone and everyone.
This is why it can be exhausting to go out in public. Even when they’re trying not to, their mind may be picking out problems with every person that enters their vision. And that can create overwhelming feelings of anxiety, of fear, of frustration, and so much more. BDD by proxy can get people caught up in some tricky situations.
No one likes to be reminded of their flaws, of their thinning hair, or of their mole on their cheek. People with this issue may blithely give suggestions that people don’t really want to hear. Solutions like shaving your hair or getting a to pay or losing some weight or changing your outfit. For larger issues, they may even recommend getting plastic surgery. And this can really alienate people as you might expect. It may drive people away from the person with BDD and it may also push that person not to spend as much time around others. It can be exhausting always noticing the flaws of others. And it’s typically not something that they can just turn off or not notice. If there’s a flaw in [00:07:00] someone’s appearance, they’re going to notice it.
And that can be incredibly distracting and even distressing. You can hardly get anything done living like that. It’s also exhausting for the people of concern, the most common people of concern who get this focus are the children or partners of the person with BDD by proxy. That can lead to body dysmorphia and disordered eating of their own, especially if they’re children or they’re young, when that concern first starts.
Think of it. If a parent is constantly criticizing your appearance or telling you how to dress or to do your hair, that can wear a person down. It’s especially true if the perceived flaw is something that the person can’t change, like their bone structure. It may make the child feel like they can never please their parents or possibly be good enough for them, perhaps that maps across into never feeling good enough for anyone.
One memorable study example was about a mother with BDD by proxy, who couldn’t help seeing her teenage daughter’s nose as crooked and she would try to push it straight. You can see how this creates [00:08:00] problems, not only for that relationship between them, but for how that daughter feels about others.
Perhaps that daughter might become critical and might have BDD by proxy for others as well. Or they might feel that people are staring at them just as intently as their mother does for them. This also definitely impacts how that daughter feels about themselves and it might impact how they treat others in their life.
Later in life, if they start a family of their own, that issue might rear its ugly head and repeat itself. If they felt that their mother had body dysmorphia by proxy, then they might feel they need to have it as well to give their daughter the right kind of growing up. The really unfortunate part is that people with BDD by proxy often feel that deep down they’re helping. It may hurt to hear, but they believe that person really needs to know this.
They might think that they’re doing them a favor. After all, if it’s so obvious to them, how obvious will it be to others? In reality, this is only perpetuating issues like body shame, body image issues, and even body dysmorphia. In one study’s [00:09:00] real life example, an aging father with BDD by proxy saw that his daughter’s hair was thinning and he believed that he had caused it.
It made him so distraught that he eventually took his own life. And even BDD for other people’s bodies can drive us to irrational and even harmful behavior. People with BDD by proxy, describe it as a painful or even tormenting experience. They can’t get that flaw out of their mind and it becomes a difficult point of fixation. Many people with BDD by proxy also realize that it’s hurting other people, especially the people they love.
They may feel ashamed or guilty about the way their comments and actions hurt others. At the same time, they can’t not do it. That flaw sits in their minds and burns a hole in them otherwise. Like people with generic BDD and muscle dysmorphia, people with BDD by proxy often do repetitive ritualistic things to soothe their anxiety.
It may be by continually fixing the person of concern’s hair, their makeup, their clothing, or even their body posture. And may [00:10:00] be by constantly checking that person’s appearance and continually rearranging their clothes or even changing their outfits. That person with BDD by proxy may hover, especially before really big events and use this person of concern as a way to vent some of their own anxiety.
They may encourage that person as well to conceal the flaw that they perceive with makeup or with certain types of clothing. Now, I’d love to know, is this something that you have experienced? Perhaps it resonates with what you’re going through right now, perhaps you feel BDD by proxy. And if you have this issue, you know exactly how exhausting that can be.
Perhaps you feel a relative or loved one in your life likely struggle with this. Perhaps they focused on someone else, or perhaps you were the person of concern. Perhaps that impacted your own relationship with your body. I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you have stories to share or questions to ask, head over to anywherehypnosis.com, because that’s where you can find the best way to get in touch.
Now, this episode was a brief one, really to get this information out there and to open up [00:11:00] the conversation about it. And with that, I’d like to leave you with an empowering metaphor. This one is called let them be better. When I was growing up, I knew someone who always wanted to help people be the very best that they could be.
She saw how much potential that each person had, and she would push each person to reach that potential. But as we know, people don’t really like to be pushed. They want to be encouraged. They want to be cheered on. And as she was pushing these people, she started to lose favor with some of her friends. Some people left, other people started talking behind her back and she couldn’t understand it. All she wanted to do was to help. Only when she changed her tactics and started using the carrot rather than the stick, was she able to help these people to see their own potential.
Thank you again for listening into the Body Dysmorphia Recovery Podcast. Remember if you haven’t yet, subscribe. Because now that we’ve explored so much of the groundwork, we’re going to be diving deeper with interviews with experts in all areas of this issue.
Again, my name is Doug Sands and I help [00:12:00] people with a body dysmorphia to wipe out BDD, to heal, harmful eating, and to get that issue out of their life once and for all, often in as little as one to two sessions. Thank you so much for listening in, and I look forward to seeing you right here in the next one.
I’ll talk to you soon.
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To your journey towards life without BDD or body image issues,