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Future Health






What is body dysmorphia?

November 10, 2020 

Body dysmorphic is a mental disorder when someone believes that they have flaws or defects in the way that they look. They are preoccupied with their appearance and convinced that even minor imperfections make them unattractive and undesirable. People with BDD obsess over how they look and are preoccupied with body image to an unreasonable extent.

Some of the signs of body dysmorphia are:

  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can't be seen or appears minor
  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding social situations

Excessively focus over one or more parts of your body. The feature that you focus on may change over time. The most common features people tend to fixate about include:

  • Face, such as nose, complexion, wrinkles, acne and other blemishes
  • Hair, such as appearance, thinning and baldness
  • Skin and vein appearance
  • Breast size
  • Muscle size and tone
  • Genitalia

BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens, and research shows that it affects men and women almost equally. The causes of BDD are unclear, but certain biological and environmental factors may contribute to its development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors such as malfunctioning of serotonin in the brain, personality traits, and life experiences (e.g. child maltreatment, sexual trauma, peer-abuse).

Body dysmorphic disorder usually doesn't get better on its own. If left untreated, it may get worse over time, leading to anxiety, extensive medical bills, severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behavior. Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder often includes a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, medications and on occasion hospitalization.

Body dysmorphic disorder warrants treatment from a mental health professional. But you can do some things to build on your treatment plan, such as:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Don't skip therapy sessions, even if you don't feel like going. Even if you're feeling well, continue to take your medications. If you stop, symptoms may come back. You could also experience withdrawal-like symptoms from stopping a medication too suddenly.
  • Learn about your disorder. Education about body dysmorphic disorder can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan.
  • Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger your symptoms. Make a plan so you know what to do if symptoms return. Contact your doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in symptoms or how you feel.
  • Practice learned strategies. At home, routinely practice the skills you learn during therapy, so they become stronger habits.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and recreational drugs can worsen symptoms or interact with medications.
  • Get active. Physical activity and exercise can help manage many symptoms, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening, or taking up another form of physical activity you enjoy. However, avoid excessive exercise to fix a perceived flaw.

If you suspect someone has an eating disorder, don't be silent. Talk and try to educate them about it. Don't comment about their weight or size in any way. Recovery is possible if the individual is willing to do what is necessary. Here are some resources that are available.