I’ve always felt ugly
Callum grew up idolising his favourite teen stars on TV, like so many kids do. The difference for Callum was that he was desperate to look like the characters on his favourite shows, or at least not look like himself.
Like many young people, he faced hormonal pressures with the arrival of puberty. He would constantly compare himself to other people, and believed 100% that his appearance was directly linked to his happiness, how good he was at school - in fact, anything positive in his life. This built the false belief that if he only looked different by his next birthday, his whole life would be better!
This disconnect between Callum’s perception of his appearance and how he felt he wanted to look (and be) like, began very early in life - something he now recognises as the first symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a rare mental health condition that affects only 0.5% - 0.7% of people in the UK today. BDD is characterised, according to the NHS, as 'is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others'.
I’d think, I’m going to have like a butterfly cocoon moment and I’m going to look completely different on my birthday.
Watch Callum discuss his triggers, diagnosis and journey to recovery here:
Callum’s experience of BDD made him feel like a stranger in his own body, the constant comparison with others and extreme negative view of his looks meant that he was struggling to enjoy life.
But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Following Callum’s diagnosis of BDD a couple of years ago, he has since received treatment including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that has really helped him to control and challenge his long-held negative beliefs. Callum now feels empowered, because with the help of therapists he has begun to develop the mental tools he needs to combat his cycle of negative thoughts.
Callum describes the CBT process that helped him here:
Callum’s understanding of why he thinks a certain way is the first step to changing how he thinks. He practises stopping a negative thought in its tracks, and redirecting it. This is a skill anyone can learn and benefit from. It's a skill he's still honing and it will take continued practice, but he’s already starting to feel more at home in his own body.
If you can change the way you think, you can change the way you think about yourself.
Where to find support:
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a rare mental health condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that if you feel unhappy with the way you look that you have BDD. However, if you do feel negative thoughts about the way you look are affecting your life, and interactions with other people, it might be worth speaking to someone you trust, and seeking help from your GP if the problems persist.