Psychology and Mental Health Forum

Author:  margharris [ Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:39 am ]
Blog Subject:  Body dysmorphia. The illness manifests

Now the child within us contains our feelings, wants and needs. In reality that want may be as simple as a warm hug of approval. But imagine you have a BDD/ OCD brain working to alert you to the need to get it right. Each day you might get a fear and then a story follows quickly to try and explain it. You are never quite sure of the context for your feelings. Only the story seems to make it sound really important. But the story has been created from your imagination. So logically you know to doubt it. You ask for reassurance to explain all you feel. Oddly, the answer never sticks and so the sensation returns that you must have got it wrong. Over the course of a lifetime how inadequate must this experience make one feel. So we need to know why it happens.

Our feelings, thoughts and actions are designed to keep us safe. But an OCD type of brain contains an overactive amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for emotions like fear and motivation. The amygdala is always on the lookout for a threat. When you are living in constant fear that something is wrong and you didnt get it right, you can easily translate that to a state of paralyzing self doubt and terror.
There is something wrong with me becomes the mindset of the BDDer. I did something wrong, the mindset of the OCDer. But the truth is that there is nothing wrong with one's look or performance. It is merely the brain over reacting.

So we now know a lot more about how the brain works than 14 years ago when this story began. We know that fear is felt first as a strong sensation. It comes to us before thought and context because we need to be ready to react to alarm. Fear from the amygdala is our early warning system. We also know context for strong feelings is often obtained through imagination. Most of us have runaway from a big dog only because we were conditioned to fear from stories told to us or from a earlier experience. The big dog didn't threaten us at all. We just told ourselves it did.
So all that is experienced in the sequence of an OCD/BDD cascade of alarm, story telling, seeking reassurance and action to relieve anxiety can now be explained.
The feelings, thoughts and actions are all a result of how our brain work in defence mode. Our brain contains emotional memories and logical memories. When we store an emotional memory it often contains no context. We can have an argument yesterday and remember how angry we were but completely forget what we were arguing about. Similarly we can have a vivid memory of someone dying and yet there is no emotion recalled for how we felt at the time. This is because we store emotion and logical context in the brain separately. Most of us dont have the wiring in place that connects the two. So when we have a strong fear, we have to interpret the fear through imagination rather than wait for the slow wiring of logic to tell us the what really is happening.
So for a BDDer/OCDer who has superfast broadband wiring for fear, the imagination has to work overtime to try and make sense of the input into the brain. The story is inevitably doubted because at a subconscious level we do know how our brain is working. We know our brain never had time to wait for logic, so we ask. This action of asking is universal to OCD/BDD. However the answer never sticks because the question was asked from the imagination centre of the brain. It cant store the logic it hears there. It just cant connect with the answer. So the answer is forgotten or rejected.
The only way left to allay the fears and anxiety created is by doing a ritual. The imagination makes up something it tells you to do to calm the fear. You do it as you feel compelled to reduce the awful feeling of fear.
In this way the feelings, thoughts and actions of a disorder become manifest in a cycle of chronic repetition. Our own defense mechanism becoming a tyrant living within us. The person with BDD or OCD entering a living hell of fear and torture. But there is a way out. I hope we find it together. Marg

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