As a teenager, a 20-something, and even into his 40s, Brian Cuban looked in the mirror and saw something that wasn’t really there. The younger brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has something called Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
For decades, the disorder ran Brian Cuban’s life, causing everything from drug addiction to anorexia. He’ll share his story at a Dallas luncheon Thursday.
Maybe it’s that one pair of jeans that makes you feel heavy, or an unexpected pimple, or a bad haircut that shows off your bald spot. Nobody loves the way they look all the time. Brian Cuban says that’s not Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
“Everyone has days where they look in the mirror and say, ‘man, that just sucks.’ Body Dysmorphic Disorder is when you take a small or even non-existent defect in your body and you exaggerate it in your reflection to the point that it affects your ability to function," Cuban says.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder usually causes someone to fixate on one body part. In Cuban’s case, it was his stomach.
“I saw myself as just a 13-year-old little boy and I was a heavy kid, I was fat-shamed, I was bullied," he says. "And that overwhelming feeling in my mind that I was still that little boy with that stomach, never went away, into my 40s.”
Invading Every Corner Of His Life
Cuban, who’s 54 now, says the disorder ran his life. He used to take inventory of his stomach each day, trying on every single pair of pants in his closet the morning after a big dinner.
“And if it felt even a slight bit tighter, that ruined my whole day. And I would think about that the whole day and that would translate into obsessive exercise to get rid of that feeling," Cuban says.
Men and women are affected equally. Up to 2 percent of the general population has it. Cuban says it’s not an eating disorder, but it can lead to one. He battled anorexia and bulimia for more than two decades. And the destructive behavior didn’t stop there.
“I became an alcoholic at Penn State University. I discovered cocaine and became a drug addict the first time I ever tried it. Steroids -- I abused steroids and almost lost my left leg," he says. "Self-harm, I engaged in self-harm. I used to punch myself in the face until I was black and blue when I felt I had been the ‘dumb bunny’ that my mom had always called me when I came home from bad grades.”
Cuban says it was hard to go out in public without getting drunk or high first. He also used to take his contacts out and leave his glasses at home so he couldn’t see what he perceived as the whole world judging his body.
“And it finally got so bad and I became so hopeless that I would never see anything normal in the mirror, that in 2005 I became suicidal and was taken to my first of two trips to Green Oaks psychiatric facility by my two brothers," he says.
"I was very close: I had a weapon on my nightstand."
What finally made him hit bottom was the thought of losing his family, who he says could only put up with so much.
The second trip to Green Oaks stuck. Cuban has been in recovery since 2007.
He went into a 12-step program and started cognitive behavioral therapy.
“I have to test my thoughts," Cuban says. "I have to realize that I am not my thoughts. I have to get good with realizing that people aren’t staring at me and staring at my stomach and saying ‘he’s ugly, he’s not worthy of love.’”
Cuban will tell this story at the Power of Prevention Luncheon Thursday, which benefits the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. He hopes it will inspire people who need help, and also urge parents to talk about addiction and eating disorders with their kids.
“We have to start early in teaching our children that those thoughts do not define us," he said.
"Those thoughts are not healthy and those thoughts can end lives.”
Stepping Out Of The Shadow
Cuban’s goal for men living with an eating disorder? Step out of the shadows.
“My hope is that one day it’s not male-eating disorders, it’s not female-eating disorders, it’s just eating disorders," he says.
Because when you’re grappling with something that invades every corner of your life, Cuban says the worst place to be is alone.