Cosplaying with a Mental Disorder
The Hobby for Everyone, No Matter What
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is described by the Google Dictionary as "a psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary defects in their appearance." There isn't a lot of discussion about this disorder on the internet when it isn't linked to Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia, but I feel as though it's important to talk about.
Body Dysmorphia was something I didn't know I had until my junior year of high school, when I realized my obsession over my nose, thighs, and neck were not normal. It consumes my everyday life, hour to hour.
Even now, as a sophomore in college, my daily thoughts are consumed by my 'perceived flaws' or the pieces of my body that my Body Dysmorphia forces me to fixate on. It changes how I sit in class, how I walk, how I dress, and makes me fret over very, very small things.
I didn't know anyone else that felt that way, and I really didn't know anybody that was willing to be open about such a struggle. At the time, I felt intensely alone, and when I started cosplaying, I felt like the whole world opened up for me.
Oddly enough, I found an odd sort of solace in cosplay, in becoming someone other than myself. And as I delved deeper into the cosplay community, I realized I wasn't the only one who struggled, even as they enjoyed their hobby.
I met lots of people in the community who were on the Autism spectrum, struggled with depression and/or anxiety, had an eating disorder in the past, etc. Everyone I met seemed to be struggling with their own personal battle, and it humbled me in more ways than one. But everyone I talked to was also kind and encouraging, so I did my very best to be kind and encouraging in return.
There are no limits with cosplay. You can be called what you want, be treated the way you want, and essentially play a few characters for a weekend. It's a magic I've never been able to pin down, and I don't think I ever will.
The point, if you will, is that everyone is struggling. I think it's important to know that when we look at people, and when we are tempted to judge them. There's so much going on behind the scenes, and in this hobby, this community of cosplay, there is almost nothing but acceptance.
Body Dysmorphia Disorder
If you think you might know someone struggling with Body Dysmorphia, which can lead to eating disorders and other destructive behaviors, look for these warning signs:
- Camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
- Comparing body part to others' appearance
- Seeking surgery
- Checking in a mirror
- Avoiding mirrors
- Skin picking
- Excessive grooming
- Excessive exercise
- Changing clothes excessively