A student has talked movingly of the ‘self-loathing and hatred’ she felt toward herself as she battled severe body dysmorphia.
Talking on the University of Bristol’s new student mental health podcast Your Amazing Mind, Pip Sears described how her spiralling body image issues eventually led to self-harm.
‘I struggled to function on a daily basis. I struggled to go out the house and see people and look at myself in mirrors, shop windows and photographs,’ she told Your Amazing Mind. ‘It seeps into your everyday life and it was something that filled up my entire headspace. Especially on really bad days, I just sort of shut down, I couldn’t hold conversations, I would just withdraw.
‘At 16 to 17 I was self-harming and would sort of be functioning on the surface, in that I was doing well at school and had friends and stuff, but there were so many things I couldn’t do and there was such a narrow window of things I could do.
‘When you feel like this your comfort zone is so small, because you have to feel like you’re in control and the idea of leaving that comfort zone is so overwhelming you just can’t do it.That was my lowest point, I hated myself completely.’
Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which the sufferer becomes fixated on their physical flaws. It can lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety and depression.
Your Amazing Mind is made by the University of Bristol’s counselling department. Each week a student and an expert talk about a particular topic to show fellow students and other young people that they are not alone. The episode on body dysmorphia is out on Monday 12th April 12.
Pip explained how baby steps helped turn things around, including finding the courage to talk about her issues, something she had struggled with for years.
‘There’s still a way to go, I still have issues, but that’s OK,’ she told the podcast host Michael Pearson, the University of Bristol’s deputy head of counselling. Sometimes there are periods of a few months where I just feel bad, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was.
‘I still have a way to go and that’s fine. I still struggle with photographs, as all my friends will attest. I no longer think horrible thoughts about myself and I don’t associate how I look with who I am.
‘There are some days when it threatens to overwhelm you again but you get better and better at not letting it.”
Episode 2 of Your Amazing Mind also hears from body dysmorphia expert Dr Phillippa Diedrichs, professor in psychology at the University of the West of England. She talks about the influence of social media and advertisements on our psyche and what we can do to reduce its impact on our mental health.
Your Amazing Mind is a podcast from the University of Bristol which comes out every Monday on all major podcast platforms. The first episode heard from Miz Cracker, known for appearing on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.