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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

PCWA Board Declares King Fire EmergencyCalifornia Fire Update: Auburn, CA- Critically important power generation, residential, maintenance, and storage facilities of the Placer County Water Agency

Roseville Fundraiser Raises $18,000 for Upcoming MobilePackA local effort to pack 500,000 meals for malnourished children around the world recently raised nearly $18,000 at a dinner fundraiser

Steinbach Tackles Paranoid SchizophreniaHe began hearing voices in his head at age 15. It started with hearing a man and a woman. They were good voices.

King Fire Forces Air Quality AdvisoryCalifornia Fire Update: The Placer County Public Health Officer and Placer County Air Pollution Control District are issuing this joint Air Quality Advisory to notify the public of poor air quality conditions due to smoke from the King Fire

Sierra College Slashing Annual Water Use by 30 PercentDrought Watch: Rocklin's Sierra College Expected to Decrease Annual Water Use by 30 Percent

Rocklin Claims 26 Million Gallons of Water SavedDrought Watch: City of Rocklin claims a savings of almost 26 million gallons of water by removing some landscape grass, shutting down water parks.

KidsFirst and The Rite Aid Foundation PartnerRoseville, CA -- KidsFirst is the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Placer County, operating three Counseling and Family Resource Centers in Roseville, Auburn and Citrus Heights

California Statewide Fire Summary (9.19.14)California Fire Update: Cooler weather allows progress on King Fire and containment of Dog Bar Fire.

King Fire Threatens PCWA Power SystemCalifornia Fire Update: The King Fire is seriously threatening the PCWA power generation and PG&E transmission facilities.

Golf Tournament Benefits Roseville's Outstanding Teachers' FundRoseville Firefighters will hold their 23rd annual Benefit Tournament on Monday, Oct. 13 at Timber Creek Golf Club in Roseville

King Fire Arson Suspect ArrestedCalifornia Fire Update: Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, of Pollock Pines was booked into the El Dorado County Jail for arson on Wednesday.

California Statewide Fire Summary (9.18.14)California Fire Update: Today, over 6,600 firefighters continue to battle 10 major wildfires burning in California. Several thousand residents remain evacuated. Yesterday, firefighters fully contained the Black Fire


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