Craig Revel Horwood, 54, is no stranger to theatrical performance, with a string of memorable pantomime turns to his name, Craig has perfected the on-stage villain – an archetype he fulfils every Saturday night, taking celebrity dancers to task on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. Behind his unflappable demeanour lies a tender side, however, and in an interview with MailOnline, he candidly revealed a lifelong mental health condition.
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He said: “I’ve battled food issues since my late teens. I was quite chubby, so when I started dancing professionally I had to work hard to stay slim.
This set the scene for a lifelong struggle with anorexia and body dysmorphia, Craig revealed: “I still battle with my food demons, but I’m much better at keeping them under control.”
As the NHS explains, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, and these flaws are often unnoticeable to others.
People of any age can have BDD, but it’s most common in teenagers and young adults, and it affects both men and women.
While it is not clear what causes BDD, it has been linked to how people respond to a traumatic experience in their past, explained the health site: “You may be more likely to develop BDD if you were teased, bullied or abused when you were a child.”
Craig attributes his BBD to spiteful remarks made by a classmate when he was 13, which brought him to tears.
Recounting that painful time, he said: “I felt exposed, like a performing seal on display in the circus, goaded for the amusement of others. I felt worthless.
“I was short and fat as a child. I was bullied mercilessly through school for my weight problem. I had few friends and just didn’t fit in.”
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The strictly judge also views his troubled home life as a contributing factor, with his self-esteem and body image confidence knocked by his abusive alcoholic father.
He said: “As a youngster, food became my comfort blanket, my misplaced security and I’d gorge myself on anything I could get my hands on.”
How to spot BDD
As the NHS notes, BDD can seriously affect your daily life, including your work, social life and relationships, and it can trigger depression, self-harm and even thoughts of suicide.
Being aware of the warning signs is therefore an important first step to seeking help.
You might have BDD if you:
- Worry a lot about a specific area of your body (particularly your face)
- Spend a lot of time comparing your looks with other people’s
- Look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
- Go to a lot of effort to conceal flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
- Pick at your skin to make it “smooth”
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How to treat BDD
According to the NHS, treating the condition usually consists of medication or therapeutic techniques, with the course of treatment depending on the severity of the condition.
If you have relatively mild symptoms of BDD, you should be referred for a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which you have either on your own or in a group, says the health site.
If you have moderate symptoms of BDD, you should be offered either CBT or a type of antidepressant medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
It’s thought that SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, and, as the health site explains, serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain). It’s thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep.
The first step is to visit a GP if you think you might have BDD, says the NHS.
They’ll probably ask a number of questions about your symptoms and how they affect your life, and they may also ask if you have had any thoughts about harming yourself.
A GP may refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment, or you may be treated through your GP.
The health body added: “It can be very difficult to seek help for BDD, but it’s important to remember that you have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.
“Seeking help is important because your symptoms probably will not go away without treatment and may get worse.”
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