A Young Adult With BDD
A Young Adult With BDD
Chris Trondsen (Recovering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder) gives expert video advice on: What was it like to look in the mirror with BDD?; Did your acne remain a concern after high school?; When was your BDD the most intense? and more...
What was it like to look in the mirror with BDD?
When I looked in the mirror I actually saw these things. I can talk about it like they weren't there now, but at the time, I mean, I saw these wrinkles, I saw these pimples, I saw these scars, I saw the discolorization, I saw my face being abnormal and awkward, I saw my hair balding, I saw my wrinkles and me being tired, my paleness, my overweight. So when I looked in the mirror and saw these things, when people told me that it wasn't there, I know what I saw, so I felt like everybody was lying to me. I'm like, "Okay, you guys can see it too, but you're trying to make me feel better, but I can see it and the mirror isn't making it up. The mirror isn't drawing spots and wrinkles, I see it, and I see it in every mirror I look in. And I know which light makes it look worse and better, but it's still there. So how are you going to tell me that I'm fine and I'm normal when I physically see it."
Did your acne remain a concern after high school?
I had better skin than I had in high school but my BDD had heightened so in my head my skin was 80 times worse. And it became an obsession anything that I could read about acne anything that could fix my acne, I mean it really became the most important thing in my life. I was searching on the internet what foods was good for your skin what foods was bad for your skin what amount of sleep I needed. I read somewhere that it was best to get eight hours of sleep and to be in bed before one. So it was like anything I did to get before one if I fell asleep at 1:01 in the morning then I felt like the next day I looked a mess and my skin looked a mess. I would make sure I'd get eight hours even if it meant missing something if it meant being late to work I would get that eight hours because I wanted my skin to look perfect.
When was your BDD the most intense?
The worse my BDD was definitely my 20's, my early 20's. It's started getting horrible is living on my own, and that's was started the worse because, now I had no body around me, my roommate worked offices schedule, so it's like me alone in my BDD.
Did you develop compulsive rituals to cope with your BDD?
Definitely. During that period of time is when I started getting almost like OCD, these compulsive rituals. They weren't because I feared germs, it was more of, I felt that if everything around me was clean, that way no dirt or oil or anything that caused acne could get on my hands or on my face. Or if they got on my hands, I would touch my face. So that's when I started becoming completely obsessed with cleanliness and keeping everything around me clean.
How did rituals help you cope with your BDD?
The rituals that I did helped me cope with my BDD. In my early twenties I remember going out and getting a lock for my door. I did not want anyone inside my room. Because I did not want anyone touching my bed sheets, touching my towels because I felt like if their hands were not clean when they touched it, they were going to get it dirty. I would wash my towels after every use, so I was washing towels twice a day. I had to shower in the morning. I had to shower in the night. I had my morning ritual of what skin products I would use. Rituals at night what skin products I had to use. I was obsessed with what time I would go to bed and what time I would wake up and how much sleep I got. I could only use hand soap once. So I would buy a complete thing of hand soap, two dollars a thing. I would use it once and once I was done I would throw it away cause I felt like if I touched it, the entire soap inside got dirty if my hands were dirty. And now I needed new hand soap. So it did not make sense, but I was buying brand new things all the time because I felt like new was clean. And that meant my skin was clear, so everything kind of went back to that. I was cleaning my car. I was vacuuming my car. I was constantly washing my clothes, constantly washing my face. Looking in the mirror all the time. It just became an obsession. So now every moment was doing some kind of ritual for my BDD.
How did BDD affect your ability to maintain a job?
I had a job and the only reason I had this job was to pay for all of these things. If I was getting money somewhere else I would have quit the job. I made sure I only worked nights and the restaurant bar I worked at was very dark. So I felt like people couldn't really see me. But every other free moment was doing the rituals.
How did BDD affect your social life as a young adult?
During this period of time I never went out. I, this is where, before this point I had always kind of thought I could maybe be attractive, I just needed to fix this. As a young adult with BDD there was no more attractive in my head, I was completely ugly.
Did you ever have plastic surgery to cope with your BDD?
I never experienced actual plastic surgery and the only reason why was 'cause I didn't have the money. If I had the money I guarantee I would have the plastic surgery right now.
How did BDD affect your finances?
Body dysmorphic disorder was so expensive. I had had money that I had saved up. And I was always making enough money to cover rent and to keep saving as I paid my bills. But going to the grocery store every day to buy new hand soap, to buy new detergent, to buy new towels and cleaning items got really expensive. I was buying a new set of towels every month it seemed like, and spending $100 here and $100 there, but it never mattered. It was always kind of like, this is needed. So my money kept depleting and depleting, and besides normal living situations, I was spending hundreds of dollars each month until my money was going down to nothing. All together, in my early 20s, I had spent about $20,000 in savings, and it wasn't on good stuff. It was on dermatologists, or it was on new skin products, or new cleaning products,or car washing and car cleaning. Going through $20,000 on stuff that I have nothing to show for today.
How did you feel as a young adult with BDD?
I felt shame, I felt embarrassment. Embarrassment was such a huge thing. I did not want to run into anybody from my old town. I actually moved away from my old town and my job away from my old town because I don't people who knew me in high school to see me and be kind of like, “What happened?” So, I felt very shameful, very embarrassed. I felt so ugly, I felt so beneath people. If people did something wrong to me at work, I kind of feel almost that I deserved it. I started to become a hermit. I was only going to the grocery store at 2 or 3 in the morning because I wanted to not be seen. I felt like a monster that I wanted nobody to see except when absolutely needed and I go out of my way to make sure that happened.
Was there anything anyone could have said to make you see you were an attractive young man?
At this point in time, there was not anything that anyone could say, not my mom, not a relationship I was in, not a friend. I mean you could have Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt tell me that I was good looking and be on a lie detector test and I still would not have cared. It was how I felt. How I thought I looked and when I looked in the mirror it wasn't that I thought these things. To me it was real. I could touch the craters on my face. I could touch the wrinkles and the acne. So there was nobody that could tell me I was normal and attractive because I know what I saw.
With your BDD, did you also struggle with perfectionism?
I remember in this period of time in my early twenties, I had a checklist. This checklist meant that if I started doing all of these things I could start dating and being normal. The checklist started out with getting my skin clear, that was the number one most important thing. So once I got my skin clear I could start buying products that I could focus on getting my skin more soft and smooth and even wrinkle free, and then once my skin was perfect then I could tan it evenly so it would cover everything and anything that still flawed. And once I got tanned perfectly on my face then I could tan the rest of my body. Then I would start working out so I could get a perfect body and get in shape. Then once I did all that I would go out and get a haircut then once I did that I would highlight my hair or dye it some kind of new color now that I was tan. And I would get blue contacts because it would look better, and then once I did all that then I could start buying nicer clothes so that when I went out I would have theses nice clothes to wear and there kind of like this whole checklist and then once I did that I would be happy. I'd be normal, I'd be perfect, and I could finally start my life. I felt like my life was halted until this checklist was made.
What was the worst part about your 'perfection checklist'?
The worst part about my perfection checklist is I never got past number one. Because I had this thing about my skin, my skin was never perfect so I couldn't even get to stage two. So I was stuck on stage one and that's when I just became so depressed and that's when I became the worst because I was like so frustrated. I could never get to the other parts of the perfection checklist because I couldn't even pass the first part. And that's when I started getting the hopelessness and the giving up feelings.