Reflections of Acromegaly:
Coming to Terms with What’s in the Mirror
Some of the most common symptoms of acromegaly are physical changes in appearance. These can include enlargement of facial features (jaw, brow, lips, nose), as well as of the hands and feet. As a result, people with acromegaly can struggle with body image perception.
Naturally, the effects this self-perception may or may not have on an individual’s mental health depends on the person. Some people with acromegaly simply don’t think about, or aren’t bothered by, changes in their appearance. Others are troubled by them, or may even find them distressing. And some patients do alter their behavior in ways both small (wearing a hat all the time to hide their head) and not so small (avoiding social situations). That said, there is no proven association between acromegaly and body image disturbance.1
Most acromegaly patients don’t curtail their activities or limit their lives because of what they see in the mirror. But it can and does happen. If you face challenges around this, here are some ways you can take action to help overcome them.
Focus on diet and nutrition
It’s true that we are what we eat. A well-balanced, mindful approach to your food can go a long way to making you feel better and putting you in a frame of mind that fosters self-kindness
Connect with others and talk it out
Patient support groups, group therapy options, or over coffee with a good friend. Building and nurturing these connections takes conscious effort, but the payoff is worth it. See the list of resources below.
Take steps for active self-care
Hire a personal trainer (who understands your condition), walk the neighborhood, invite a friend on a hike, take up kayaking. Whatever gets you out there, start slow and go for it. Endorphins are your friend.
Seek professional help
A licensed, trained therapist can make a great ally. Some therapists specialize in helping patients with body image issues.
Dealing with a negative body image can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, especially on top of a chronic disease like acromegaly, which comes with its own set of challenges. But by being forthright with your doctor, taking the initiative to find help, and following treatment plans outlined by the professionals you engage, you can learn to manage these feelings so they don’t overtake your life.
For additional insights and supportive ideas, read our full interview with two experienced therapists and acromegaly advocates.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)