Combating Body Dysmorphia Caused by Cushing’s Disease

Catarina Louro-Matos avatar

by Catarina Louro-Matos |

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body dysmorphia

Hi, everyone!

This week, I want to talk to you all about something that personally affects me. I know it also affects many others who currently suffer from Cushing’s disease and are in recovery.

This issue is called body dysmorphia. You may or may not have heard of it, but it is a mental disorder that plagues many people, not just Cushing’s patients.

If you haven’t heard of body dysmorphia, it describes when someone cannot stop obsessing over something about their body that they believe is “defective” or “flawed.” The disorder can become so bad that it causes people to avoid social gatherings altogether, and it can lead to extreme anxiety. To get a full understanding of the disorder, head over to the link here, where the Mayo Clinic describes the ins and outs of it all.

From left, December 2015, 11 months into weight symptoms appearing; December 2016, one month before surgery, 100 lbs. heavier than in January 2015. (Courtesy of Catarina Louro-Matos)

I used to believe that once I had surgery and started losing weight, I would be incredibly happy with myself. Life came knocking and told me it’s not that simple.

Yes, I’ve absolutely come a long way, and I make sure to acknowledge and understand that. But it doesn’t change the fact that I still have a tiny bit of a bigger stomach that’s taking a while to go down. It really upsets me, and it makes shopping for clothes and going out in public a nightmare.

As most of you know, Cushing’s causes weight gain, mainly in the abdominal area because of excess cortisol secretion. But the fat gain in our bodies is incredibly disproportionate. Before the extreme weight gain hit me, I was tiny (88 lbs.), and I never want to be back there again. But my body was proportionate. I was able to wear dresses and jeans with no problems. Now, whenever I put on a dress, it looks like a potato sack on me because of my gut, and jeans don’t fit properly because my gut is so much larger than my legs and bum. If you haven’t already guessed, those are the areas I obsess over and can’t stop. Every single day. No matter what.

From left, 2014, 2017, and end of 2017.
(Courtesy of Catarina Louro-Matos)

People close to me tell me that it’s not that bad and that my weight has gone down tremendously. I thank them for the encouragement. But they aren’t the ones who have to go shopping with this body. I have to get shirts that are bigger because my gut is larger compared to my upper body, which results in my shirts falling off my shoulders. I also can’t wear jeans, as I stated above. I live in gym leggings and baggy shirts/tanks because of this.

The anxiety I face when invited out somewhere where I have to dress with more class is a nightmare. In the winter, I could get away with it, but now that the weather is warmer, it causes another level of anxiety. To others, I look great and they think I should go shopping more, but to me, I don’t belong in clothes that do not fit or suit me. Buying big sizes of cute clothes ends up not working because as such a petite woman — standing at only 5’3” — big clothing overwhelms my body and makes me look stumpy. It’s not a good look or feel for someone who loves fashion and style.

I have recently begun looking into therapy for this because it has taken over my life for too long. I cannot keep hiding in my room or in the house because I don’t fit properly in clothing. I deserve to live my life.

If you feel similar to the way I’m feeling, I’m here to tell you that you are most definitely not alone. You, too, deserve to live your life. It’s scary, it’s taxing on our minds, and it’s incredibly exhausting. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones and get professional help, too. It’s not a “silly” thing you’ll just “get over.” Body dysmorphia is something that has treatment available through cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. This disorder is legitimate, and you deserve happiness.

The road to recovery for Cushing’s is so difficult, as we know, and our recovery has so many different layers that we need to focus on. Neglecting an issue because we feel others will think it’s minuscule is not fair to ourselves. We only end up hurting ourselves more in the long run. You’re worth all the help you need to seek. It won’t be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.

Until next week!

XOXO, Catarina


Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s disease.


Emma avatar


Hi! I think I may have this! What types of tests should I ask my doctor to do? Any insight helps.

My butt looks like it shrunk and went to my belly and have really bad stretch marks. I don’t have any kids yet and was exercising regularly. Did you have any other symptoms aside from the physical?

Ashley avatar


Hey, I am sorry to hear about your struggle. I myself don’t have Cushing’s disease, but have learned about it recently and was curious as to how life was like with the disease along with post treatment.
Even so, I did used to have a binge-eating problem five years back due to a dopamine deficiency in the brain along with hormonal issues instigated by endometriosis, and understand your insecurity with how one looks along with frustration (I gained 55 lbs within a year and frankly felt disgusted with myself). I am better now though, and I hope you’re better as well too. When I was overweight, I remembered feeling a lot of shame along with envy towards those who I deemed more attractive than myself. I would often bang my limbs against furniture or belittle my value as a person because I had this idea that that hate felt for myself was universal. I feared that people took pleasure and laughed at my flaws, which was a cycle that was super hard to break. And if you’re going through that same mentality, know that your friends and family honest to God love you.
Know that you’re never stuck/trapped, you can still improve and feel satisfied with yourself (especially in recovery). What helped me lose that weight that I gained was mainly through exercise (since I would just relapse and overeat again if I stressed and tried to cut back on calorie intake). My first goal was to walk 10,000 steps a day, and when I lost five pounds after a month and a half of doing that, I felt confident that I had control (which decreased the drive to worry, and thus overeat).
You will get to that point of feeling good about your body again. I still have dysphoric moments of feeling down about my old stretch marks or my legs, but it’s not nearly as obsessive as it was. I am rooting for you dude, thank you for sharing!


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