October 6, 2017

UPDATED POST TITLE: facial dysmorphia.

UPDATE: I'm removing the part of this post that links to a UK Telegraph article that has been taken down because, I'm told, it contained factual inaccuracies about a particular individual. The article brought up the subject of "face dysmorphia" — which was defined as a belief that one is ugly (despite evidence to the contrary).

ADDED: Why is the term "facial/face dysmorphia" being used here? When I first looked up the term, I got to articles about actual deformities of the face, not delusional false beliefs that the face is deformed or otherwise unbeautiful. Shouldn't the term be "facial dysphoria," like "body dysphoria"? But I'm looking up the word "dysmorphia" in the OED and seeing that "body dysmorphia" is a psychiatric term, with its first recorded usage in 1994:
J. R. Marshall Social Phobia vii. 129 People with body dysmorphia do not consider their anxiety and concern to be inappropriate, and they do not experience the relief that is characteristic for socially phobic people when they are finally alone.
Also:
1998 Guardian 10 Feb. ii. 4/1 Although still relatively uncommon, dysmorphia holds up a mirror for us to understand something about almost every woman's (and, increasingly, every man's) experience.
Somewhat older is the psychiatric term "body dysmorphic disorder," defined in the OED as "a disorder in which a person becomes excessively preoccupied with an imagined or slight defect in his or her appearance, typically causing some impairment of social and occupational functioning, and often resulting in repeated plastic surgery."

It seems as though the word "disorder" should be in the term for it to make literal sense, because there's nothing misshapen about the body. The problem is in the mind. If you shorten it and replace "dysmorphic" with "dysmorphia," you lean toward the patient's own idea that the solution is in changing the body.

And, in case this discussion makes you want to talk about transgender issues, here's "Stop Confusing Gender Dysphoria With Body Dysmorphia Already" (Jezebel), which makes the point that transgenders don't have a delusional belief about what their body looks like.

34 comments:

Fernandinande said...

Pretty sure "facial dysmorphia" means "really is funny looking", but if you stick "syndrome" or "disorder" on the end it means they're mental.

Rob said...

Harvey Weinstein suffers from body dysmorphia. He thinks he's ugly no matter what his bootlicks tell him.

Bob Boyd said...

Can you get the reverse of this where you think you are very good-looking when in fact, you are uglier than a mud fence?
That would be better.

Amexpat said...

What was life like before mirrors? The only way you could judge your own looks was by how others reacted to you.

sodal ye said...

Agreed, JPG.

Assrat said...

>What was life like before mirrors?

Probably not a lot of time before mirrors. They're in some of the earliest tombs out there. Admittedly they weren't nearly as good.

But yeah, modern mirrors were one of the traditional trade goods people would haul around while exploring new lands. They could be pretty sure someone would want them.

traditionalguy said...

Transgender surgery is the same thing. And it still ends in suicide most of the time. Seeing ourselves in a mirror in our minds that despises us is a Personal Demon that cannot be appeased by surgery or by eating disorders. What would have set her free from that. Social friends that accept us are the answer for most people. But some seem not to go out except by fasting and prayer.

mockturtle said...

I'm sure that some of the celebrities who have overdone plastic surgery started out with something relatively benign like botox but [and Michael Jackson comes horrifyingly to mind] were never satisfied with their looks. It's a losing battle with these folk, I think. They need psychiatric care not physical enhancement.

tcrosse said...

What was life like before mirrors?

Narcissus made do with a pool of water.

Amexpat said...

Narcissus made do with a pool of water.

Yeah, and look what happened to him.

A possible therapy for people with this syndrome is to take them to a retreat for a couple of weeks where there are no mirrors. Grooming can be done by family or friends.

exiledonmainstreet said...

mockturtle, for an even more extreme case of plastic surgery abuse look up Dead or Alive lead singer Pete Burns, who died a few years ago. Burns was not transgender, and he said he was not gay. His goal apparently was to make himself look as freakish as possible and he certainly succeeded.

rhhardin said...

Actresses have asymmetric faces, mostly.

n.n said...

The transgender spectrum disorder covers both mental and physical anomalies from masculine and feminine genders. Deviations from normal that range from homosexual to bisexual to transvestite to medical corruption. Transgenders have delusional beliefs about what relationships they should have, and/or what their body should look like.

Ralph L said...

Is there an effective therapy for people with this problem? Is it the same as for anorexia?

Then there are the tattoo/piercing freaks.

Gahrie said...

which makes the point that transgenders don't have a delusional belief about what their body looks like.

No..they have a delusional belief that there is something wrong with their body, in their case that they have the wrong genitalia. Others may have a delusional belief that they are too fat, or that their nose is to big. The key word is not "looks" it is "delusional".

Mike said...

which makes the point that transgenders don't have a delusional belief about what their body looks like

Of course they do! More than anyone else, in my opinion. After all they don't change their biology from XX to XY or vice versa, they only change the external appearance, and mess with the chemicals in the very complex (and not fully understood) hormone/endocrine systems.

Want proof they are delusional about even more? They are 80% more likely to commit suicide after "changing" their sex. They are 30 TIMES more likely to commit suicide than a non-gender dysphoriac. They are sick. And indulging their sexual fantasies doesn't improve their mental or physical health.

traditionalguy said...

Psychologists tell us that we need many different mirror people encounters and especially in crowds that meet regularly in order to figure out how to see ourselves as accepted and valuable. Finding more and more friendly faces is what we all need. But some get stuck on stupid and refuse inputs from friends. In those cases the "belief"in them may have been screwed up by authority figures at an infant age that despised them for ... just being babies.

In Christian belief, the Bible scriptures are our mirror that tells us how God sees us. And he sees us as most highly favored. And that is why cults try to keep the scriptures hidden so that they can sell the free gift to us as if they own it.

William said...

How is it possible not to have a subjective opinion on your own face? Most sane people probably over or under value their appearance by about 10%........It probably gives you an edge if you overvalue your looks. Harvey Weinstein probably thought he was doing those women a favor. He's definitely ugly, but when he looks in the mirror, he priobably sees a cuddly Papa Bear......Or maybe, people who undervalue their looks grow old with more grace. Good looks are transient so it's best to not become too attached to them.

Titus said...

I hired my first binary person this week. Shim's name is "Ash".

tits

traditionalguy said...

Gender dysmorphia is precisely the same thing. And the propagators of surgery scams know it.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Thanks for telling me to rely on Jezebel's judgement and reasoning, Professor. Without that prompting I might have done something silly and embarrassed myself.
Whew!

Achilles said...

There are many studies showing that there is a correlation between a person being more attractive and a declining self perception of attractiveness.

They try harder because they feel ugly.

Lucien said...

The Jezebel article is horse shit. People with dysmorphia don't see anything different from other people when they look in the mirror - there's nothing wrong with their eyes or other sensory organs. It's not like they actually see the reflection from a fun house mirror when they look in a regular mirror. The problem is their interpretation of what they see - it looks gross, it looks horrific, it's horrid, it's not right.

Same thing with transgender - they see their male/female characteristics just like everyone else but they think: that's not right.

Both are mental illnesses, though the article insists one is and the other is not.

David said...

No matter how often we say they don't, looks do matter. Sometimes they matter so much that misperceptions become reality, which generally leads to trouble of one kind or another.

Darrell said...

People with dysmorphia don't see anything different from other people when they look in the mirror - there's nothing wrong with their eyes or other sensory organs.

Back in the 1970's, I saw a television news program about anorexia. One doctor discovered a curious thing with his patients--he would have them stand in front of a very large, very wide mirror and tell them to trace the outline of their body with a red lipstick marker on the glass. All missed the outside e edge of their body by eight or nine inches too wide. He repeated the experiment with the other anorexic patients he had access to, and the results were similar.

Unknown said...

Someone asked:"Can you get the reverse of this where you think you are very good-looking when in fact, you are uglier than a mud fence?" I would suggest that this is common. For many people, they are born with lots of confidence and this confidence helps them be successful which garners them attention and respect. So they feel good about themselves in spite of their looks. For others, looks don't mean that much (probably mostly men).
I suspect that for many women, the success of their man and his devotion to her completely override his looks, so she sees him as handsome. etc.

Lucien said...

I hear you Darrell, and it might be true for anorexia (though I doubt it - the doctor's story sounds apocryphal and suggests anorexia is a disease of the eyes and not the brain). As someone who has struggled with dysmorphia at various times in my life, the mirror doesn't lie and neither do the eyes. It's the mind that lies (?) about what the image in the mirror means.

Lucien said...

I'll add that trying to "accurately" trace your form on a mirror is probably tough - you have to stand close enough to actually draw on the mirror, and the difference in angles & perspective will likely cause you to draw lines somewhere that look odd to an observer standing further away who has a different perspective. Like I say, the doctor's story sounds good... but it may be "too good to check."

MayBee said...

Lucien said...
The Jezebel article is horse shit. People with dysmorphia don't see anything different from other people when they look in the mirror - there's nothing wrong with their eyes or other sensory organs. It's not like they actually see the reflection from a fun house mirror when they look in a regular mirror. The problem is their interpretation of what they see - it looks gross, it looks horrific, it's horrid, it's not right.

Same thing with transgender - they see their male/female characteristics just like everyone else but they think: that's not right.

Both are mental illnesses, though the article insists one is and the other is not.


Exactly, Lucien.
They focus on the things they see that are there but don't want them there. Perhaps a skin fold in their stomach when they sit.
And they focus on the things that aren't there, that they want there. Perhaps a bigger thigh gap.
And there is no doctor who would give them a bigger thigh gap in order to quell their disgust.

It's sad. People actually die from anorexia, so fixated are they on how much their own body disgusts them.

Eric Landgraf said...

"Number 12 looks just like you, now".

Alex said...

I don't get it. 40 is the new 30 if you take care of yourself. She didn't even look 40, it's mental illness.

Alex said...

I agree with tradguy. No amount of surgery can get rid of the 'demon' inside. It must be appeased.

Freeman Hunt said...

I once knew someone with body dysmorphia. He said he always felt very small, but he was an accomplished bodybuilder and one of the largest people I've ever met. Interesting.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe they were all standing closer to the mirror when the drew the outline than when the researcher compared the images.