Body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder that makes you obsess over your physical appearance. You constantly try to fix or hide these perceived flaws that may not be noticeable to others but yourself. We spoke to five Nigerian women about what it is like hating their body in a way that makes them obsess over it. They told us about body dysmorphia and what it is like for them.
CONTENT WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES BODY DYSMORPHIA, MENTIONS SELF HARM, ANXIETY DISORDERS, PANIC ATTACKS AND DEPRESSION. MIGHT BE TRIGGERING FOR SOME.
The sight of my own body causes me pain. I hate looking in mirrors because of the amount of time I spend obsessing over all these “flaws” I have, but I look at them anyway because I have to monitor my progress in getting rid of them. The stretch marks, flabby skin, spots, discoloration, everything. I look at these imperfections and want to hurt myself. I’m constantly fight a battle between “hurt yourself because you look absolutely terrible” and “you cannot afford any more scars on your ugly body.” I get panic attacks because I worry that people can see these flaws, so I wear baggy clothes to hide as much of me as possible.
I feel like my body and mind deceive me when it comes to the visual perception of myself. Even when I try to look my best, what I look like in the mirror or camera is the total opposite of what people see when they look at me. I have had multiple breakdowns over this. I only speak about it when other people talk about it because it makes me feel less alone with my predicament.
I can’t remember ever looking in the mirror and feeling good. To me, there is always something off. I used to self harm when I was younger but stopped when I scared myself by going too far. I moved from that to alcohol which I stopped once I moved to my parent’s place for the lockdown. Now, I just work a lot to get my mind off of things. If you avoid seeing yourself for a while, there will be nothing to obsess over, right?
Sometimes, it is the little things that really rock you. You might be typing a letter to your boss when you realise that your fingers are too short. You look at them for so long, it spreads to other parts of your body. Before you know it, it is 3 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and you are contemplating suicide because of your “short fingers.” You feel so guilty for being sad over “silly” things like that. Imagine explaining to someone that you had an anxiety attack because of your fingers? Body dysmorphia is a haunting problem, and all the “love yourself” quotes cannot fix it.
I hate mirrors, but I keep looking at myself in the mirror wondering if my face will magically change overnight. I am not sure what my body actually looks like because what people say I look like is not what I see. I am super conscious of my body and how I look. I cannot wear form fitting dresses when I go out alone because I do not want to feel weird. In my head, everyone is looking at me and wondering why I would wear such an outfit. I see people that look the way I look and they are pretty, but when it comes to me, it just does not work that way.
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