Megan Fox, the celebrated actress renowned for her beauty and often hailed as a sex symbol, has recently revealed her struggles with body dysmorphia. In a candid interview for Sports Illustrated magazine, where she graced the cover as one of the 2023 Swimsuit models, Fox shared her innermost thoughts.
“I never perceive myself in the same way others do,” she confided to Sports Illustrated. “Throughout my life, I have never truly loved my body. Never. It’s always been an obsession for me to strive for a certain appearance.”
The journey of self-acceptance, she believes, is an ongoing one. Megan Fox’s honest remarks have ignited a profound online discussion about body dysmorphia and its potential impact on individuals, even those deemed conventionally attractive.
It is important to understand that body dysmorphia is not determined by one’s physical appearance but rather by how individuals perceive and feel about themselves. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), as mental health professionals refer to it, revolves around obsessive concerns about perceived flaws in one’s appearance. These concerns can relate to any physical feature, as explained by Dr. Scott Hadland, the chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Mass General Brigham.
Dr. Hadland further explained that this mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of their external appearance or the opinions of others. Society’s immense pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards affects celebrities even more profoundly. Even those who seem to embody society’s ideals can develop BDD if they hold a negative view of their own body, even if it doesn’t align with reality.
A young Canadian woman, who prefers to be identified only as Earth, has wrestled with poor body image since her early childhood. As she reached her teenage years, Earth’s body dysmorphia intensified, leaving her hyper-aware of her appearance at all times. “I constantly feel either too big or too small,” she confesses. “Facial dysmorphia haunts me as well. Despite receiving compliments about my looks, there are moments when I genuinely perceive myself as disfigured, frightening even.”
According to the International OCD Foundation, BDD affects an estimated 1.7% to 2.9% of the general population, including millions of individuals in the United States alone. However, due to the shame associated with this disorder, many individuals are hesitant to reveal their symptoms, suggesting that the actual prevalence might be higher.
Living with BDD poses significant challenges. Earth finds it difficult to express her true self around others as her body dysmorphia compels her to constantly hide her insecurities. Similarly, JK, a 30-year-old who prefers to remain anonymous, describes her experience with BDD as both frustrating and exhausting. “You are constantly judging and comparing yourself to others,” she shares. “It’s a peculiar sensation to despise the skin you’re in.”
Dr. Hadland explains that individuals with BDD often obsess over perceived flaws that may be minor or entirely invisible to others. However, these obsessions cause severe distress and anxiety for the person affected. BDD can contribute to general anxiety, depression, social isolation, low self-esteem, and relationship problems. JK has personally experienced the strain it puts on relationships, as she struggles to feel comfortable in her own body.
Dr. Jenna DiLossi, a licensed clinical psychologist associated with the non-profit organization Minding Your Mind, reveals that BDD often creates a barrier between individuals and their loved ones. Fixating on a specific aspect of their appearance leads to seeking constant reassurance, which can become burdensome for others. It can also result in a reluctance for physical intimacy or a preoccupation that detracts from social activities.
While BDD itself is not inherently dangerous, individuals suffering from it may be at risk of self-harm or suicide, as experts caution. Additionally, some individuals with BDD also experience co-occurring eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, which have the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses.
Thankfully, there are treatment options available for those battling BDD. Research suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), combined with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in severe cases, can be effective. However, it is crucial for individuals to consult their doctor or a mental health professional to explore suitable options for their specific situation. Online support groups and resources can also provide valuable assistance.
The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, for instance, offers an array of online resources, including a self-assessment test designed by clinicians to gauge the likelihood of BDD. It also presents personal recovery stories from individuals who have conquered BDD and recommends self-help books.
For JK, embracing the concept of body neutrality has been a helpful coping mechanism. Body neutrality involves existing in one’s body without excessively positive or negative judgments. “We all have bodies, and that’s just a fact,” she asserts. “Sometimes the pressure to be body positive can be overwhelming.”
Although mental illnesses can be isolating and lonely, Dr. Hadland emphasizes the importance of open dialogue about BDD, as Megan Fox has bravely initiated. By discussing this disorder candidly, we can work towards reducing the stigma surrounding it and creating a more supportive environment.