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Do you have “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder”?

Last week, the DailyMail shared three photographs of three beautiful women, all of whom suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder. All three are convinced they are hideous, deformed freaks. (Their words; not mine.) They go through lives with heads bowed, eyes averted, feeling like they shouldn’t be allowed outside with the normal people. They feel unworthy of love. Avoid sex. And one has decided never to pass on her genetics to a child lest she give birth to a “hideous monster.” Again, her words; not mine.

But here’s the thing: All of these ladies are not only perfectly normal, but even beautiful. Stunningly beautiful, in fact.

Reading that article, it all seemed so familiar. And I’m not merely referring to my OCD days when I wouldn’t even take out the garbage without two layers of foundation – thick liquid foundation under thick powder foundation.

No, the DailyMail article reminded me of how I used to feel about myself, as a person. How you may still be feeling about yourself right now. That’s what narcissistic abuse does. It gives us a case of what I’m calling “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder.”

I’m talking about narcissistic abuse so severe that it made us feel so bad, so shameful, so unworthy, so evil, so warped, so stupid, so less-than-everyone-else, so awkward, so gauche, so inappropriate-to-life,so {insert adjective here} that we too went through life with heads bowed and eyes averted. Felt unworthy of love. Couldn’t believe that anyone would ever want to have sex with us and said “yes” when we really meant “no.” And perhaps decided never to have children lest we screw them up the way our parents screwed us up.

I’ve walked in your shoes. I remember back to when I used to jest that “it takes an Act of Congress to get me out of the house” every morning. I dawdled and I dallied, taking as long as I could for my morning “shower” in a cold porcelain tub. It felt safe. My one last refuge before going out in a terrifying world. Making eye contact with my seemingly confident coworkers. Rubbing shoulders with women who held their heads up and appeared to feel “okay” about themselves.

Dating was a bloody nightmare. My blood pressure must have been through the roof as I arrived for a date, fearing that (yet again) it would be awkward, conversation would be strained and all-about-him and I’d never hear from him again.

Everywhere I went, I felt like the odd-woman-out. The weirdo. Watched. Criticized. Gossiped about behind my back. I tried to be good, to be nice, to be smiley…but I still felt like a freak. So I studied manners, etiquette, even ballroom dancing. Trying desperately to feel better about myself.

It didn’t work.

So I compensated. I didn’t even try to make friends with other young women because, frankly, I felt like a different species.  If they wore the latest styles, I wore antique rhinestone screw-on earrings and colorful blouses or even gorgeous pajama tops. If they wore their hair straight and parted in the middle, I wore mine short, curly and side-parted with bangs. If they wore nude lipstick, I wore vivid magenta lipstick. While they clustered together at lunch, I sat alone and read The Lord of the Rings. Every day.

Partly, I am different. Partly I was terrified of rejection. Partly it was easier not to even try to make friends with the species I longed to belong to but feared I never would. It was easier to “reject myself” than to risk rejection by them. That’s what “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder” can do.

It can make you say things like, “Michael, those people like you. They only tolerate me.” It took years before I finally accepted that our friends liked me too. I wasn’t just Michael’s “Plus-One” who was tolerated. No, I was really liked for myself.

In some ways “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder” is all about healing your inner soul. In other ways, it’s about finding your niche. They intersect and inform each other.

For example, at my first MENSA dinner, I found myself surrounded by single Mensan men, all vying for my attention. Well THAT was a first. I was accustomed to being shunned by young men. A wallflower at ballroom dances that wives would send their husbands to dance with out of pity.

But when I found my niche, oh how the tables turned. The biggest self-esteem-boosting change came when I was transferred to the Information Management and Technology department at my (old) job. Being surrounded by geeks was Heavenly. I finally had friends. No longer did I eat lunch alone. I never felt rejected. Even dated them. (Yes, yes, I know. It’s stupid to date co-workers. Yes, I got burned!)

Then along came Michael. He liked me. He really liked me. Even when he’s laughing at me and calling me “eccentric,” he still likes me. (Ha! He should talk! 😉 ) He made me feel normal.

That’s when I realized: “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder” is one big, fat lie! There’s nothing wrong with us. Oh, our narcissists wanted us to think so! So they could clamber on our downtrodden carcass to raise themselves in their own estimation. So they could control. So they could watch us bleed (emotionally) and feast on it, like some kind of emotional vampire.

But it wasn’t true. We’re not bad. We’re not shameful. We’re not unworthy. We’re not evil. We’re not warped. We’re definitely not stupid. We’re not less-than-everyone-else. We’re not awkward. We’re not gauche. We are NOT inappropriate-to-life.

We’re very nice, normal, polite, kind, mannerly and smart people who’ve been lied to, brainwashed, mind controlled and hurt. Really, really hurt until we developed “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder.”

But it’s not a life sentence. It can be cured with big injections of truth and finding your niche in society.

Photo by Tif Pic

Do you have “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder”?

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2018). Do you have “Personality Dysmorphic Disorder”?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Jun 2018
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