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Anxiety Over Matching the American Ideal

Not long ago, I had an interesting telephone conversation with a reader in another state concerning what he thought was a physical abnormality. This may seem strange to call such a conversation "interesting," but I'm a licensed professional counselor and disability columnist, so these types of conversations often find me.

The gentleman had a so-called abnormality involving his feet and was worrying others eventually would see it even though, to this columnist, nothing about his feet seemed abnormal. He explained there wasn't hardly any space between his big and second toes on his feet, i.e., the two digits were nearly fused with web-like flesh. Of course, his condition didn't meet the threshold of being a disability because it didn't significantly affect him in at least one major life function, such as driving, walking or reading. He was concerned only about his appearance.

Normal physical differences like these concern many Americans. For instance, I've seen many people become emotionally worked up over how others will judge or perceive their hair color, or their height, weight, hair style, or amount of body muscle. Some of us get worked up more than others.

Psychologically speaking, a mental health diagnosis exists for people who have an excessive preoccupation with or are significantly impaired or distressed by imagined or slight physical defects. (The latter could include acne, thinning hair or wrinkles.) It's called body dysmorphic disorder.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that some Americans become consumed by how others perceive their appearance because, for decades, we've all been bombarded by millions of television, radio, newspaper, and Internet ads aggressively instructing us in how to smell, look, feel, and interact.

Likewise, it shouldn't surprise anyone when a person with a disability also becomes concerned about his appearance, especially considering his concern usually isn't over relatively minor or imaginary issues, but sometimes over a disability that could be drawing unwanted attention.

Like everyone else, people with disabilities over the years have absorbed the same TV and radio commercials that promote some manufacturer's skewed ideal. They have seen the same Barbie dolls.

As a result, a woman with a disability, while in public, may excessively worry over how others perceive the way she talks, walks, reads, eats or does other activities. It's one more thing she may feel a need to worry over when out, along with, possibly, accessibility issues and any common physical concerns such as hair color, height, and wrinkles.


LittleGiantFudge.com and Palmer Bus Service make this column possible.

Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com



Placer County News Headlines

Rob McAllister Joins Halldin Public RelationsROCKLIN - Longtime Sacramento news reporter Rob McAllister, who became well known for his reporting at both KFBK 1530 radio and KOVR CBS 13 television in Sacramento

Roseville Burglars Evade PoliceRoseville, CA - Police officers searched the Crescendo Drive area extensively today after a resident reported an attempted burglary

Newcastle Resident Elected Region Governor of SoroptomistJacqueline "Jackie" DeMartini, of Newcastle, California is serving a two-year term as Sierra Nevada Region Governor of Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization for women.

10 Year Old Girl Abducted in CarmichaelAt approximately 3:00AM, an unknown white male adult entered a residence through an unlocked door and removed a child under the age of ten years old from the residence against her will.

Writing Your Life Story Workshop September 13thBud Gardner, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul, part of the New York Times best-selling series, will conduct a workshop, How to Write Your Life Story, on Saturday, Sept. 13th

Jessup Gala to Celebrate 75th Anniversary on September 20thROCKLIN, Calif., - William Jessup University will host the Jessup Gala on Saturday, September 20 from 6-9 p.m. The dinner and program festivities raise funds for student scholarships.

Brandman University Adding Roseville LocationRoseville,CA -- Brandman University will be locating at 400 Sunrise Blvd. The 9,182 square foot tenant improvement is valued at over $300,000.

Roseville California Crime Brief (8.31.14)Roseville, CA - Roseville California crime brief update report for August 31, 2014.

Acura ILX: Luxury Vehicle, Reasonable PriceFor car shoppers looking for an upscale luxury sedan that doesn't arrive with a luxurious price tag, Acura debuted the ILX a year ago and its back for 2014 virtually unchanged

People with Autism Especially VulnerablePerhaps like you, recently I read of an incident in Okeechobee, Florida, in which an 18-year-old man was recorded on video beating, choking, kicking, and holding a knife to the throat of a 16-year-old boy with autism.

54 Year Old Roseville Woman Killed with Own VehicleRoseville- 54-year-old Bernadette Ann Richardson was killed when her SUV rolled backwards as she was retrieving a bicycle from her 1997 Ford Explorer.

Photos: Napa Earthquake DamageWe recently had the opportunity to tour Napa following the magnitude 6.0 earthquake. The downtown area of Napa which contains many older buildings was hit especially hard.


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