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Perceived Reality vs Actual Reality

I grazed over this topic in my last post, but it is definitely important enough to circle back and talk about. My hope in this blog is 2-fold... 1) for those of us who suffer from BDD, my hope is that this will bring you some peace and let you know that you are NOT alone and you are in fact NOT crazy, and 2) for the family members and friends of those who are suffering with BDD to give some insight into how and why we see ourselves the way that we do.

I will preface everything below by stating that I am not a doctor, not a mental health professional...I am just a guy who has been living his life for years with these issues. The information contained below is based on my personal research of BDD and I do not condone, endorse or guarantee any of the information, treatments, etc. You can click on the hyperlinks to view full articles and supportive research. I urge you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

Now, that we have the legal part out of the way...

I have a feeling that I am not alone in my skewed perception of myself (Perceived Realty) and what is actually true (Actual Reality). This is truly the core of Body Dismorphic Disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines BDD as "a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable."

I want to dissect this a bit because there are a few points that I find interesting and, upon further research, comforting and validating.

MENTAL DISORDER: Ok, I know your visceral response..."So I AM crazy?" No, we are not crazy. Think of it this way on a really elementary level. The way that we view ourselves in OUR minds (the mental part) as a disturbance in mental function (the definition of a disorder). Simply put, the way that we view ourselves (Perceived Reality) is in disorder, or disarray, of how other view us (Actual Reality). Helpful right? No, not really. That sounds great on a high level, but how does that really help us? As I did some deeper research, I found some insightful articles and studies that did just that, they helped me to understand what is actually going on in my head.

Click on the links to see the full studies and articles. It is a lot of info, but it is really interesting. Stay with me here, I promise that I am making a point. I promise.

Researchers showed 25 people, half with BDD and half without the disorder, three different images of faces in high, regular and low resolutions. MRI results showed that participants with BDD used the left sides of their brains -- the analytical side -- to process all three images. The other participants used their brains' left hemispheres for only the high-resolution images. This could mean the minds of people with BDD strive to acutely process visual details, even when there aren't any to process. This might be why they can see flaws in themselves, even when those flaws might not exist [source: Feusner].

In a similar neurobiological study of subjects with and without BDD, the conclusions were very similar.

Several patterns are emerging from evidence from research studies of the following:

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-Impairments in neurocognitive functioning, especially in planning, organization, and memory

-Visual and emotional processing deficiencies

-Impairments in frontostriatal circuits that mediate higher-level regulation and control

-Abnormal white matter connectivity and network patterns in the brains of those with BDD

For those of you who stuck with me, I thank you. I know that this is a ton of info, but the bottom line is that there are biological and neurological REASONS that those of us suffering with BDD (ED, OCD, etc.) see what we see when we look in the mirror. In our minds, perceived reality is the same as actual reality. Our reality is the only reality to us. Our brains literally process information and see things differently than those without BDD.

So there you have it. We are NOT crazy. Our minds truly think and believe that what we are seeing is in fact, actual reality.

For those friends and family members who stuck with me as well, I give you an even bigger thanks. My hope for you is that this blog and these articles shed some light on a really difficult and painful part of our lives, and a subject that is many times discounted as just being a vanity issue. This is not something that we can just "get over", it's a real thing...BUT your love, support and understanding make this difficult journey one that we do not have to make alone.

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