Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don't want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called "imagined ugliness."
When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to "fix" your perceived flaws, but never will be satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.
Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.Wikipedia states that...
the disorder is linked to significantly diminished quality of life and can be co-morbid with major depressive disorder and social phobia, also known as chronic social anxiety. With a completed-suicide rate more than double that of major depression (three to four times that of manic depression) and a suicidal ideation rate of around 80%, extreme cases of BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) linked with dissociation can be considered a risk factor for suicide; however, many cases of BDD are treated with medication and counseling.
They state further that a person's issue can be mis-diagnosed as depression when it's actually BDD which is causing the problem. The sufferer tends to spend excessive time thinking about a perceived flaw, looking in a mirror to examine it thoroughly, and otherwise obsessing about a flaw which usually doesn't even exist.
I feel badly for such a person because their quality of life is so impaired.
In a similar vein, I've just started reading a book called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body (Hardcover)by Courtney E. Martin. She is a young woman writing about her generation's horrific tendency to focus on their bodies and their imperfections. She states that so many of these young women appear to have it all - excellent grades, amazing achievements, great jobs, perfect boyfriends - they are perfect on paper - yet they spend hours daily thinking about what they have eaten/want to eat/shouldn't eat, etc., etc. Martin figures conservatively that such people spend over 100 minutes each day with thoughts such as "I wonder if I should get a frozen yogurt. Oh, no, I haven't earned it. No, that would be so bad. No, I won't do it. Yes, I'm going to. I didn't have breakfast so I deserve it, and besides it doesn't have all that many calories. What the hell!" Then of course there's the price they pay in guilt and self-disgust and vomiting it up. She paints a picture of imbalance and horrible self-denial.
It seems to me that our society is significantly out of balance with food and eating and body image and very little idea of how to think about it normally. I haven't read a book about that yet - what normal eating would look like. Of course I've read nutrition books about the ideal meal plan (where one is supposed to weigh and/or measure ones portions precisely as well as record them so one can't fool oneself about what one has really eaten) but I'm not sure that counts as "healthy". Does anybody out there have an answer to that one?