COVID-19: Expression of Solidarity and Ongoing Support from the BDD Foundation
We are in unusual times and appreciate that the coronavirus may be causing you additional fear and anxiety right now. We also acknowledge that for some sufferers of BDD, isolation may feel, in part, like a welcome reprieve from the demands of going out into the world. Whatever your current experience we want to emphasise that your feelings are valid and to remind you that you are not alone. Here at the BDD Foundation we are working together to move our affiliate face-to-face support groups online and update our website with additional information for you and your loved ones.
On this page we have compiled some responses to questions you may have, followed by resources to support you over the coming weeks.
Where can I access support for my BDD right now?
We are moving our affiliate support groups online using Zoom as a platform. Zoom is easy to use and accessible if you have access to an Internet-connected device like a laptop or phone. If you would like to register for a support group, please email Kitty Wallace, Operations Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once registered for a meeting, you will receive a link specific to that meeting. Click on the link and you will be taken to the online group in process. There is an option to have your camera off if you prefer. As is the case with face-to-face groups, you are welcome to come along and simply to listen if this is what helps you the most.
OCD Action have also scheduled some additional online support groups. Please click here to find out more: https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/support-groups/online2
What if I can’t access my face-to-face therapy right now?
We recommend checking out with your therapist if they are able to offer over-the-phone or Skype/Zoom sessions. We know this isn’t quite the same thing as having face-to-face sessions, yet it will afford you the opportunity to keep your supported treatment going. If you feel you are in a crisis, we recommend contacting your local Mental Health Crisis Team.
How can I carry out some of my exposure exercises if I cannot go out?
Your supporting clinician should be able to advise you on how to progress with your treatment plan during this time. It might be that you carry out some form of your exposure exercises at home, possibly online. Don’t worry too much if some of your exposure exercises, particularly those related to leaving the house, are not possible right now. Keep focused on the aspects of your treatment plan you can engage with; you can come back to other aspects later.
We warmly invite you to continue to celebrate and feel proud of yourself for every recovery-journey victory, no matter how seemingly small. Remember, however it may feel sometimes, that you have many reserves of courage and resilience inside of you.
What can I do with this additional time to prevent me from engaging in safety behaviours?
In times of anxiety, safety behaviours like checking the mirror might be inclined to increase. You may have additional time on your hands right now and be worried about filling some of this time with your safety behaviours. This is an understandable worry. Here are some top tips to support you in this regard:
Pick up the phone and speak to a trusted person when you feel the urge to engage in your safety behaviours. Continue to reach out to your social connections and support networks at this time. Remember: physical distancing does not need to mean social distancing!
Keep a daily routine going. You might find it helpful to write out a little schedule each day, broken down into hourly or half-hourly slots.
Keep a regular meal routine.
Include self-care activities and hobbies in your daily schedule.
Consider a daily yoga or mindful movement practice. Movement with slow breathing gives a message to the brain that you are safe. Many yoga studios have now put their classes online. The College of Medicine are offering a daily 15-minute gentle martial arts-based practice from 10am to 10.15am GMT which you can access by:
Going to https://zoom.us
Clicking 'Join meeting'
Enter meeting ID 382533299
Keep your mind and hands occupied by engaging in arts, crafts, making music etc.
Continue to engage with your treatment plan, if you have one, in terms of tackling your safety behaviours in the home environment, e.g. setting a timer when looking in the mirror, taking ten deep breaths when you notice the urge to pick the skin/look into the mirror/touch the perceived flaw etc.
Engage in sorting activities which are naturally relaxing to the brain, i.e. sorting and organising your drawers, cupboards, book collection, kitchen cupboards etc.
How can I manage my BDD-related thoughts right now?
Some pointers for tackling rumination and self-defeating thoughts include:
Labelling your thoughts – e.g. replacing the thought, ‘My nose is misshapen’ with ‘I am having the thought that my nose is misshapen’.
Repeatedly challenging your thoughts, e.g. ‘I am having the thought that my skin is blemished. Others do not seem to notice this. Perhaps my skin is not as blemished as I believe it is’.
Re-framing your thoughts, e.g. ‘I am having the thought that I have dark circles under my eyes. Even if this is true, these dark circles do not change the fact that I am a kind person who has (insert talent) to offer to the world.’
Challenging your thoughts, e.g. ‘I am having the thought that I am not a good person because my hair is thinning. I have lots of evidence that I am a good person like (insert examples).’
Engaging in long-deep breathing (particularly extending the exhalation to stimulate the rest-and-digest branch of the autonomic nervous system) to slow the thoughts down. Coherent breathing (breathing at a rate of five breaths per minutes; inhaling for the count of six and exhaling for the count of six) also has a growing evidence base for balancing the nervous system and reducing anxiety. You can use this free timer to support you: https://insighttimer.com/yogajoe/guided-meditations/coherent-breathing-symphony-full-version or can find the Respire One coherent breathing tracks on Spotify.
Making little cards by cutting up old cereal boxes etc. and painting them different colours. Then writing out any thoughts you have repeatedly and cyclically on each card, categorising them using colours into groups, for example: self-critical thoughts; scared thoughts; self-esteeming thoughts etc. Consider which cards/thoughts are serving you and make a special little box to keep them in. Consider what to do with the cards/thoughts that are not serving you, e.g. finding that card each time you have that thought and physically turning it over.
Creating and using positive affirmations (phrases worded in present-moment language). For example, ‘I am not my thoughts’. ‘I am courageous and strong’. ‘I move through all obstacles’. ‘I choose actions that are kind to myself’.
What should I do if I am drawn to spending lots of time on social media right now?
We invite you to be self-compassionately aware of the time you are spending on the Internet and social media. Consider using a tracker to support an awareness of how you are using your screen time. You might need to ‘ban’ yourself from accounts where you find yourself seeking physical treatments like dermatology or where you tend to engage in comparing behaviours or similar. Consider un-following any unhelpful influences and add esteeming ones.
We are aware that there is a certain amount of public worry and even panic being shared on the news and social media in relation to the coronavirus. Consider whether reading and engaging with this regularly is serving your recovery journey. If you’d like to keep connected with how events are unfolding, checking the news once in the morning and once in the evening may be manageable.
What if I feel guilty about struggling with BDD in the face of what is occurring globally?
Feelings of low self-worth, shame and guilt are sadly part-and-parcel of BDD. These feelings may lead you to minimise your worries and even to feel shameful about them. We want to assure you that, regardless of whatever is going on in the world, your suffering is absolutely valid. Please continue to take yourself seriously and to reach out for help when you need it.
BDD-Specific and Related Mental Health Struggles Resources