Cognitive Retraining and Body Image

I have a serious body image problem, but my therapist hasn’t put the Body Dismorphic Disorder label on it. I suppose Bipolar I Disorder w/PTSD is enough disorders. Apparently the way I see my body and my eating habits are the absolute opposite of reality, so she taught me how to do cognitive retraining.

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders defines it thus:

Cognitive retraining is a therapeutic strategy that seeks to improve or restore a person’s skills in the areas of paying attention, remembering, organizing, reasoning and understanding, problem-solving, decision making, and higher level cognitive abilities. These skills are all interrelated. Cognitive retraining is one aspect of cognitive rehabilitation, a comprehensive approach to restoring such skills after brain injury or other disability.

In addition to being used after a brain injury, it is also very useful in retraining thought patterns such as negative thinking. In one column I am to write all the things I think about my body and my eating habits, and in the second I am to write the opposite of what I wrote originally (which is a very simplified way of doing this).

This is an example of what I am to do every time I have one of these negative thoughts:

I am a big fat pig – I have a beautiful body

My blood pressure would be lower if I were thin- I have a very reasonable blood pressure for my age

I eat too much when I feel full – I feel full because I ate enough

I should never eat sweets or too many carbs – If I eat a small amount when I have a craving I wont binge later

These are just a few examples that are a result of a lifetime of training by an anorexic mother and an abusive ex-husband.

This is a very difficult exercise for me, but hopefully with enough repetition I’ll get it through my thick skull that I don’t look anything like I think I do, and my eating habits are just fine.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid beholder a black eye. ~ Miss Piggy

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