A SOUTHAMPTON dad has told how he hated his appearance so much that he tried to take his own life.

"When I looked in the mirror I felt disgusted with myself," says Connor Moody-Russell, who tried to take his own life before his one-year-old daughter was born.

The 20-year-old warehouse worker was suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, which led him to have a distorted view of how he looked and to spend a lot of time feeling excessively anxious about his appearance.

He says that he began to feel self-conscious when a gym opened at his school.

"It was a gradual build up from when I was about nine," says Connor, who lives in Woolston.

"My physical appearance was making me feel sick and horrible about myself.

"I hated doing PE, especially when we had to go in the gym. It got very bad when everyone started going through puberty and seemed to be growing bigger and gaining muscle, and I wasn't I felt left out, although I wasn't especially small."

Connor's feelings went on to intrude on almost every aspect of his life.

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"I had social anxiety when I went out," he says.

"I always wore a coat, even in the summer, to cover myself up. And I refused to have photos taken of myself because I didn't like the way I looked."

Things reached a low in January 2016, when Connor was 17, when he tried to hang himself.

"I was beating myself up all the time," he says.

Luckily, before Connor tried to take his own life, he sent a text to a friend. The friend thought it was an odd message and went to Connor's home to check if he was OK, kicking in the front door and ultimately saving Connor's life.

"Afterwards, I felt like an idiot," he said.

"That was the worst I got, although I do sometimes still struggle now."

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Fortunately, the incident frightened and distressed Connor and his family so much that it prompted him seek help from his GP.

He began receiving counselling, which he says has gone a long way to helping him to understand and manage his difficult feelings, and has been life-changing.

"It was coming from a lack of self-belief, and self-hatred but I don't know what the root of that was," he says.

"I think my body was what I was focusing on, what I was blaming."

He does, however, feel that men's fitness and body-building magazines may have contributed to his negative feelings about his body.

He says that he started to read these magazines because they featured articles on how to look better, but they didn't seem to work for him, so he thought there must be something wrong with him.

"I think they should give the reader more options and information," he says.

"They could give advice, like 'if it's out of control, stop!'"

Connor has teamed up with Fixers, the campaign which gives young people a voice to talk about issues that are important to them, and has made a short film to encourage young men to feel happy about how they look and to seek help if they don't.

"Society puts pressure on us through social media," he says.

"Young people live on their screens, so you have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all these things where you see muscular men or females who are all skinny and petite.

"It's all photo-shopped, but everyone thinks they've got to look like that."

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Dr Lin Bailey, a senior lecturer in psychology at Southampton Solent University says that Connor's focus on body dysmorphia in young men is very topical.

"Over the last 25 years, the number of young men who are dissatisfied with their body image has tripled.

"Social media has a huge part to play. It encourages self-scrutiny and comparisons with other people. It also promotes an ideal which is not attainable."

Connor now goes to the gym, but says that he doesn't need to change his body to feel happy about it.

He would urge anyone with similar feelings to him to speak out and seek counselling.

He adds that he thinks it can be particularly difficult for young men to reach out and get the support that they need.

"It is hard for young men to be open about it," he says.

"There's the idea that men have to be macho and help everyone else before we help ourselves, but we are all just human.

"If there's a young man out there who feels like they do suffer from body dysmorphia disorder, don't be scared, don't hate yourself," he adds.

"Just speak out and get some help.

"There are professionals out there who can help you. You are not on your own."

* Since 2008 more than 23,600 young people have become Fixers and created over 2,400 projects. With a £7.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, Fixers extended from England into Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as well in 2013. For more information, visit: www.fixers.org.uk

What is body dysmorphic disorder? (BDD)

BDD, or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. It is most common in teenagers and young adults.

Having BDD does not mean that sufferers are vain or self-obsessed.

Symptoms include:

Worrying a lot about a specific area of one's body (particularly the face)

Spending a lot of time comparing one's looks with other people's

Looking in mirrors a lot or avoiding mirrors altogether

Going to a lot of effort to conceal perceived flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes

Picking at skin to make it "smooth"

BDD can seriously affect sufferers' daily life, including work, social life and relationships.

BDD can lead to depression, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

Getting help for BDD

You should visit your GP if you think you might have BDD. They may refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment, or you may be treated through your GP.

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 won't go away without treatment and may get worse.

Further information and advice can be found at: www.bdd foundation.org, www.youngminds.org.uk, www.mind.org.uk and www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/body-dysmorphic-disorder/