Actors Who Suffer from Body Dysmorphia

April 22, 2016

How is it possible that famous beauties such as Hayden Panettiere, Sarah Michelle-Gellar, Uma Thurman, Shakira, and Jessica Simpson struggle profoundly with their self-image? The culprit is body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological malady that distorts a person’s body image. A suffering individual will obsess for several hours a day over a perceived flaw, and may resort to cosmetic procedures in attempts to appear “normal.” Sadly, those who undergo such procedures often feel no satisfaction with the results. Panettiere shared how seeing a paparazzi photo of her cellulite mortified her, and gave her “such body dysmorphia for so long.” And Michelle-Geller once told Health magazine, “I totally have body dysmorphic disorder. I think most women do.”

Indeed, a lot of people assume it’s only women and girls who become preoccupied with what’s “wrong” with their bodies. But, on the contrary, men suffer from it nearly as frequently. Robert Pattinson has described his own battles with negative gnawing thoughts about his perceived flaws especially before auditions and red carpet events. “Up until that moment I’m a nut case. Body dysmorphia–overall tremendous anxiety,” he once admitted experiencing.

Simiarly, Modern Family‘s Reid Ewing battled body dysmorphia as well as an addiction to plastic surgery. In a deeply painful and honest blog to the Huffington Post last November, he revealed:

“In my case, my looks were the only thing that mattered to me. I had just moved to LA to become an actor and had very few, if any, friends. I’d sit alone in my apartment and take pictures of myself from every angle, analyzing every feature. After a few years of doing this, one day I decided I had to get cosmetic surgery. ‘No one is allowed to be this ugly,’ I thought. ‘It’s unacceptable.'”

Ewing’s long list of surgical procedures started at the age of 19; he details the tremendous post-surgery swelling and pain he experienced accompanied by his impossible attempts to hide in shame. Sadly, time and time again the results proved to be problematic at best.

“Each procedure would cause a new problem that I would have to fix with another procedure…. Much of this was going on during the same time period I was shooting ‘Modern Family.’ Most of the times I was on camera were when I’d had the numerous implants removed and was experimenting with less-noticeable changes to my face, like injectable fillers and fat transfers. none of them last very long or are worth the money.”

Finally, Ewing came across a doctor who gave the advice, “Before seeking to change your face, you should question whether it is your mind that needs fixing.” This message was at complete odds with what all his previous doctors had been promoting, and it inspired Ewing to look deeper into his history of depression and come to terms with his dysmorphic disorder. He now wishes he could go back and advise his younger self to accept and appreciate himself. Regarding the surgeries and procedures he says, “It’s just not necessary. It’s not going to make your life happier or better. In fact, it did the exact opposite.”

As for Hayden Panettiere, she now reminds herself that “beauty is an opinion, not a fact,” and this always makes her feel better. “People can tell when you’re happy with being you and when you’re not. As I’ve gotten older and grown into my body, I’ve started realizing that the way you carry yourself and that light coming out of your eyes are the most attractive things about you.”

Hayden Panettiere’s Struggle with Her Self-Image

September 20, 2012

Hayden Panettiere

“You are beautiful in every single way…” – Christina Aguilera

Hayden Panettiere was every teenage boy’s fantasy prom date when she played a superhuman cheerleader in the groundbreaking science fiction series, Heroes; she’s since moved on to her role as the super-sexy diva, Juliette Barnes, in ABC’s upcoming musical drama, Nashville. Hayden’s considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and indeed has the career and star power to back up her beauty. So how would someone with that kind of toothsome reputation obsess over a perceived defect in her body? Ridiculous, right? Well, Hayden confessed to Women’s Health magazine this month that she’s struggled for years with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a psychological malady that distorts a person’s body image. A beautiful woman insecure in her appearance may strike you as a contradiction, but it’s hardly rare. In fact, Sarah Michelle-Gellar, Uma Thurman, Shakira, Jessica Simpson, and Demi Lovato all claim to have suffered from BDD.

So what exactly is Body Dysmorphic Disorder anyway? According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s “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.'”

A suffering person obsesses for several hours a day over a perceived flaw, and may attempt to fix it with cosmetic procedures, which in turn provide no satisfaction. And if you think it affects only women, well, think again. BDD occurs equally among men and women, and even occasionally strikes children and older adults. In fact, approximately 1-2% of the world’s population meets the diagnostic criteria for BDD.

Our hats are off to Hayden for having the courage to shine light on this subject! Now we’re clear that this is a disorder with a name, and it can be treated. With the intense societal pressures on actors nowadays, it’s easy to imagine them being particularly susceptible to such a malady. If this sounds like you, take it seriously and consider reaching out for help. When you reflect on the successful celebrities who have overcome these challenges, you can see you’re not alone, and it’s worthwhile to seek help. Besides, the most important resource you have when you walk into the audition room is your confidence. When you’re confident in your acting ability, in your voice, in your knowledge–and yes, in your appearance–casting directors, producers, and directors will notice. Confidence is not just innate; it can be learned and can be improved upon.