Body Dysmorphic Disorder, as the Mayo Clinic puts it, is a “type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance.” It’s a compulsive disorder that shouldn’t be confused with common vanity. People with body dysmorphic disorder—which is also known as dysmorphophobia (fear of having a deformity)—suffer a compulsive belief that they have an abnormality or defect in their appearance. It manifests in different ways, from anxiety and depression to eating disorders, excessive cosmetic surgery and self mutilation. Its causes can be biochemical, hereditary and/or environmental.
When we hear stories about it in the media, it is usually surrounding the issues of women suffering eating disorders vis-a-vis the daily bombardment of images and messages in the media and popular culture espousing a certain aesthetic standard for women. The message they receive is that “beauty looks like this; and if you don’t look like this, then you are not beautiful.”
North American culture being predominantly white-oriented, the stories we hear in the media are typically about young white women who believe they are overweight, that their breasts are too small, that their lips are too thin, etc. This distorted self view is so deeply ingrained that it drives them to obsessively work to alter (or “correct”) their appearance, sometimes putting their health at risk.
There is another dimension to the issue that often does not come up in mainstream discussion, and that is race. This heartbreaking—if not eye opening, at the very least—montage popped up on my radar today by way of Twitter thanks to Kwame Zulu Shabazz and his blog, Thoughts of a Ghetto Intellectual, where he brings up yet another often overlooked dimension.
For a great read on the subject of internalized racism, head on over to Alas, a blog to read Karynthia’s post. If you have any personal stories on the subject of internalized racism, please share in the comments below!Tweet