Mental Health Film Festival: Dysmorphophobia

On the 14th of may, during the Mental Health Film Festival in Moscow, we watched two short films on the topic of Dysmorphobia: Distorted Mirrors and Go Out.

by Diana Ushkar


Dysmorphophobia or Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by preoccupation with an imagined defect in one's physical appearance. For people with BDD their appearance is the core of their self-esteem, so as they find themselves ugly they start to hate themselves. If nothing is done with the diagnosis, this hate may lead to serious consequences. It's important to mention that what they think of themselves has little to do with reality, it is always an illusion of the diseased mind. In case of dysmorphic disorder, it is really hard or even impossible, if we talk about the most aggressive form of the disease – dysmorphomania, (in psychology phobia means easy form of any disorder, while mania means harder, more aggressive form, which is close to be incurable) to change this conviction. Unfortunately, Body dysmorphic disorder is a common disease among men and women.

Dysmorphophobia is associated with many time-consuming rituals such as mirror gazing or constant comparison to other people; both short films reflect those phenomenons. Distorted Mirrors is made around the image of a mirror . The main character is a young girl who talks to her reflection like it is a real person. As she doesn't like what she sees, she starts screaming at her reflection, humiliates it as if she was a stranger from a crowd who would dare insult her. Mirror as a symbol is very important in any culture. For us, humans, our reflection in the mirror is the vision and perception of ourselves. The first mirror in life of any human is their mother's eyes. While growing up we are learning about ourselves from the feedback we receive from other people. For the main heroine of the movie her mirror plays this role of the feedback from others. Looking at her reflection, a young girl thinks that everyone who sees her would immediately start hating her only because of the way she looks. In Go Out there is also a distinctive image of a mirror. A young girl wants to go out, but she can't choose an outfit. She's trying on different clothes in front of the mirror, getting more and more disappointed. Here a mirror plays the role of a catalizator of self-hate for the main character. We also see that the mirror is presented as the only reliable source of information for the girl, as she doesn't believe her boyfriend who loves her and says that she looks good. The reason is that people who suffer from Dysmorphophibia always see the distorted image of themselves. Their minds distort the real image, and in the same mirror they can find something completely different from what others see. The disease is what actually makes them think that all the mirrors are lying.
An important difference between the main characters in two movies is the extent of the disorder. In Distorted Mirrors we see that despite her diagnosis the girl doesn't give up. She is trying to keep a diet and is working on her problems. In the end she even calls for help, so we understand that she's ready to change the situation, and she can be cured. While in Go Out the BDD is already close to the form of mania. The girl doesn't trust anyone. She is afraid to go outside and can hardly bear communication with her boyfriend who has to stay outside of her house , because she's not ready to let him in and see her. This extent is more dangerous, as the Dysmorpic disorder completely absorbed her personality, and she sees no way out. The message of those two stories is that we shouldn't ignore such diseases. There's a way to cure it, but only if the person who suffers from the disease will find the strength to fight and will ask for professional medical help. It's important to prevent the development of the disease before it turns into mania, which is much harder to cure. If we want to help someone who is suffering from BDD, we need to make them feel safe, give support, and carefully encourage them to ask for professional help.
Dysmorphophobia is cruel, but curable. We need to talk about it, to let people who suffer from BDD know that we understand them and can help them. That is why it is very good that people shoot films and arrange Film Festivals helping to drive attention to such important topics.
Made on