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Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Is there something about your appearance that you may not like? Or are you in constant worry about such “flaw” that it causes you a significant distress? Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), formerly known as dysmorphophobia, is a mental disorder in which an individual is preoccupied with an imagined or minor physical defect that is not apparent to others. For example, in most cases individuals are concerned with their skin imperfections, hair, and their facial features such as their nose. However, it is possible that they also express concern with a “flaw” in their teeth, weight stomach, breasts, legs, chin, eyebrows, or genitals for example. All of us, if not the majority of us, have something about our appearance that we do not like however, individuals with BDD cannot control their negative thoughts and often see themselves as “unattractive,” “ugly,” or looking “like a monster,” for example. Their preoccupation for their physical appearance is so extreme that it may begin to interfere with their daily lives and spend hours thinking about such “flaw.” For example, individuals may begin to isolate themselves and begin to miss school, work, social situations, and they may even isolate themselves from their loved ones because they fear that others may notice their flaws.

What are the symptoms of BDD?

  • Excessive grooming
  • Skin picking
  • Constant mirror checking or avoiding mirror checking
  • Reassurance seeking
  • They begin to compare their appearance to those around them
  • Seek plastic surgery, for example
  • Excessive exercise
  • Change clothes excessively

How can it be treated?

  • Psychotherapy, a type of individual counseling where the focus is on changing the thinking and behavior of an individual
  • Medication such as antidepressants
  • Group and family therapy. Family support can be crucial and important to treatment success.

Who is affected by BDD?

BDD affects both men and women equally. It is believed that in the United States, there is a 2.5% prevalence in females and a 2.2% in males estimating that about 1 in 50 people are affected by such disorder. However, people who suffer BDD may also tend to suffer from other anxiety disorder such as Social Anxiety Disorder as well as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Depression. It is important to take note of this but be cautious for a misdiagnosis.

What causes BDD?

Often, BDD begins to develop in adolescent years however, there is no clear diagnosis of what the causes of such disorder are. Moreover, there are believes that there may exist environmental and biological factors that may influence the development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors, personality traits, and life experiences (i.e. peer-abuse, sexual assault, or child mistreatment).

What can I do to help myself cope with BDD?

  • Train yourself to make positive evaluations of yourself
  • Know your personal triggers
  • Understand that way you perceive your appearance
  • Think of what you have to offer for yourself and others
  • Have a daily routine
  • Engage in extracurricular activities
  • Teach yourself about BDD
  • Seek professional and family support