Tallulah Willis ‘resented’ looking like dad Bruce: How she copes with body dysmorphic disorder

Tallulah Willis is opening up about struggling with body dysmorphic disorder and is sharing her advice for others who may be struggling. 

In an Instagram post Tuesday, Willis said she used to punish herself for resembling her dad Bruce Willis instead of looking like her mom Demi Moore.

“I resented the resemblance as I believed wholly my ‘masculine’ face was the sole reason for my unlovability – FALSE!” she wrote alongside a series of photos of her and her mom. “I was/am inherently valuable and worthy, at any life stage, at any size, with any hairdo! (As are you).”

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others.” 

Willis wrote she’s come to terms with the idea that her face will change with age. 

She noted it’s normal for people to want feel confident and look good, but it becomes dangerous when hyper-focusing on appearance “creeps into a deeper, spookier place where it begins to devour your essence bit by bit.” 

The actress also reminded her followers that body dysmorphic disorder is a valid “psychological pain” not a “stupid, vain issue.” She encouraged them to ask for help if they need it.

Willis also shared her tips for coping with the disorder: 

  • Willis said she puts a “towel mirror over the mirror” or takes mirrors down when she is having a “BDD spiral.” 
  • She also takes breaks from social media. “I scroll 9GAG to disassociate instead,” she wrote, referencing the meme-sharing app. 
  • She also reads fantasy books. Most recently she enjoyed the “Court of a Thorns and Roses” series “but reach out to (sister) @scoutlaruewillis she always has the good good recommendations.”
  • “Find a safe person, circle, community who you can vocalize the triggering moment/current obsession/spiral,” she suggested. 
  • Willis also encouraged her fans to “go for a walk and listen to music.” 
  • She also recommended taking a soothing bath “and smear body oil/ lotion all over your tender skin.”
  • The actress has found writing to be a helpful tool as well. “Word vomit EVERYTHING that is gurgling within your mind onto a piece of paper and then tear it up or burn it. Let it flow out of you and no longer take up the precious space in your mind.”
  • Her final tip is to breathe. “Close your eyes. REMEMBER that you are allowed to take things 5 minutes at a time. For as long as you need to.”

Scott M. Granet, a 66-year-old licensed clinical social worker at the OCD-BDD Clinic of Northern California, said body dysmorphic disorder (often also referred to as body dysmorphia) impacts approximately 2% of the population. Having been diagnosed himself, Granet told USA TODAY in March it took him years to discover that he had been struggling with the disorder.

Marla W. Deibler, a licensed psychologist and executive director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, said that many people with BDD are convinced of their negative self-perceptions, despite feedback to the contrary.

“BDD may be challenging to recognize in oneself, because insight into the inaccuracy of one’s misperception of their body is often poor,” she said. 

Contributing: Jenna Ryu

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