ADHD and Body Image

concerned woman looking in a mirror

My Body, Myself

Body image refers to the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that each off us holds about our body. It determines how comfortable we feel about our bodies and how attractive we believe ourselves to be. We all critique our appearance now and again. But in extreme cases, where it becomes obsessive and misaligned with reality, it can be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). While not much attention has been paid to the relationship between ADHD and BDD in the scientific literature, therapists working with patients have noted it.

How can ADHD negatively affect an individual’s body image?  And why could it escalate into BDD?

How ADHD Can Negatively Impact Body Image

There are potentially many factors at play. For example:

  • Depression, a common comorbid condition of ADHD, can lead to poor diet, binge eating, restrictive eating and lack of exercise.
  • Hyperfocus on some aspect of body image an individual may perceive as negative can bring instant stimulation – e.g. weight or appearance. These are things that that seem to be controllable. Unchecked, this can lead to an obsessive fixation.
  • Poor social skills can also lead to an over-focusing on appearance. The individual believes if only they can look better, people will more accepting.
  • Poor self-esteem and feelings of inferiority.

These factors can all contribute to and amplify a negative body image.

Treatment Options

 are a variety of treatment options for those suffering from an intense, negative body image. These include:

  • Different types of therapy – e.g. cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy and / or acceptance and commitment therapy.
  • Mindfulness practice to create a more positive awareness of your body and build better habits for caring for your body.
  • Medication to control the symptoms of ADHD that can exacerbate a negative body image.
  • Coaching to build social skills that can help improve self-esteem and diminish the focus on appearance.

All of these treatments can help you  achieve a more positive body image and greater self-esteem.

References

  1. https://iocdf.org/blog/2020/08/10/body-dysmorphic-disorder-and-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
  2. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-related-body-dysmorphic-disorder/
  3. https://add.org/adhd-and-body-acceptance/
  4. https://healthyadhd.com/struggle-weight-body-image-adhd/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25870202/

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