Body dysmorphic disorder, a poor body image

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If you find yourself compulsively obsessing over your appearance or body image, then you might be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

body dysmorphic disorder

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

Sometimes called “imagined ugliness”, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a serious mental illness where you can’t stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance -- usually of the skin, hair or nose. This flaw could be minor or imaginary, but to you, it seems so true that you obsess over it and feel miserable perhaps to the extent that you don’t want to be seen by anyone.

You may often find yourself seeking treatment from dermatologists or cosmetic surgeons. And even after successful procedures—feel unhappy or begin focussing on a new defect that needs fixing.

Causes for body dysmorphic disorder:

The exact cause of BDD varies from person to person. It’s mostly believed to be a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors like life experiences. Abuse and neglect too could contribute to the disorder.

BDD generally affects adolescents and young adults. Research shows that it affects women as well as men.

Signs and symptoms for body dysmorphic disorder:

  • Being so preoccupied with your physical appearance, that it causes you significant distress in your work, school, social or other areas of life.
  • Harbour a strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly.
  • Compulsive mirror checking, glancing at reflective doors, windows or completely avoid mirrors altogether.
  • Obsession with dermatological procedures and dissatisfaction with results.
  • Tendency to undergo cosmetic surgery and feel unhappy even if it successful.
  • You think others perceive your appearance negatively
  • Have the need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Refuse to be photographed
  • You constantly compare your appearance with that of others
  • You are extremely self-conscious
  • Excessive grooming
  • Feel the need to camouflage your minor/imaginary flaw with clothing or makeup
  • You tend to avoid social dos

Common features one tends to obsess over are: nose, hair, skin, complexion, wrinkles, acne and blemishes, breast size, genitalia and body weight.

See a doctor...

Body dysmorphic disorder doesn’t usually get better if it isn’t treated. If left on its own, it might get worse, leading to suicidal behaviour. So, if you identify with a majority of the symptoms, see a counselor or doctor at the earliest.

Treating body dysmorphic disorder:

Treating BDD can be difficult if the patient isn’t willing. Treatment options include cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on teaching healthy behaviours such as being social and avoiding obsessive behaviours like compulsively looking at the mirror; and anti-depressants.

A combined approach of both is found to be effective in treating this disorder.

Photograph via sxc.hu