Do you keep looking in the mirror or entirely run away from it?
Do you feel you don’t look good enough, or even worse, do you feel ugly?
Do you feel ashamed or embarrassed regarding a specific body part or aspect?
Do you feel you are obsessively focusing on your perceived bodily flaws?
If you could answer in a ‘YES’ to all of the above-mentioned questions, then the chances are that you have a mental illness that needs attention and don’t have a normal body-image and insecurity issues.
Body dysmorphia or body dysmorphic disorder is a real psychological issue that makes people look at themselves as having one or many flaws in their body. In this disorder, people have a distorted body image, leading to obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors, among other mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and even the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and actions.
This condition often goes undiagnosed as people suffering from it go through shame and embarrassment, which never lets them share their symptoms. Usually, this issue starts in the teenage years, and the children themselves don’t even know or realize that they are suffering from a mental health condition and not just a regular teenage insecurity issue.
If you or your loved ones seem to be having such obsessive thoughts about body image, then the first thing to know here is that this condition is treatable. In fact, the earlier that treatment starts, the better are the chances for healthy living with no body image issues. Let us dive deeper into knowing what it is, how it can be diagnosed and treated, and much more.
We all face insecurities regarding our body image, but there is a difference between those bouts of doubts and body dysmorphic disorder. If you have an obsessive preoccupation with your looks, so much so that you remain stressed and cannot function in your day-to-day activities at work, school, and social life, you might be having a bigger problem. The obsessive thinking and worrying can be about:
- Facial features
- Skin imperfections (wrinkles, moles, acne, scars, and blemishes)
- Hair (body and facial hair)
- Stomach and chest
- Size of genitalia
- Breast size
- Body odors
- Muscle size
Though the perceived flaws can be about other body parts as well, mostly these are the major areas of concern among the patients. Another important thing to note here is that the perceived flaw looks very real to those suffering from BDD but can look quite insignificant or minor to the other people looking at it. However, this doesn’t stop the excessive thinking or worrying about the flaw and can often lead to depression and anxiety. While looking in the mirror, those flawed features jump out so starkly that you want to change them. For this, one of the things that you may start doing is getting reassurance from the people around you, even if you feel that you won’t believe them. The drive to change or remove that flaw gets intense, and one may even go for plastic surgeries. All these behaviors may led to a conclusion that you are indeed suffering from BDD, and getting timely treatment from certified mental health professionals will be very helpful in the overall recovery.
A Quick Definition
Body dysmorphic disorder, also known as dysmorphophobia is a mental disorder categorized by the DSM-5 in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum of mental disorders. The treatment often involves therapy along with medication to help relieve the symptoms.
Most of the time, the flaw perceived by the person is not even a major one, and in the delusional variant of the disorder, that flaw can even be imagined and not real. This condition doesn’t go away on its own and requires professional treatment by certified mental health professionals. This disorder often leads to other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders or may even stem from them if any of those conditions are already present. The treatment then takes the route of solving those problems as well, leading to an overall betterment in the person’s conditions.
Signs and Symptoms
People suffering from this disorder have an inaccurate and harmful view of themselves, which makes them avoid social situations and engage in self-sabotaging activities.The signs and symptoms of body dysmorphia include the following:
- Being excessively preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that is barely noticeable to others.
- Believing that others are taking special notice of your appearance negatively or they are mocking at you
- Having a solid belief that you have a defect in your appearance making you ugly or deformed.
- Constantly comparing yourself with others
- Having a perfectionist tendency in many aspects
- Obsessively hiding the flaws with makeup or styling
- Seeking reassurance from others about those flaws
- Frequently checking the mirror or running away from it altogether
- Too much focus on grooming and skin picking.
- Going for cosmetic procedures and having little satisfaction even after that
- Feeling self-conscious and anxious when around people and avoiding social situations in most cases.
- Inability to concentrate on work, school, and other essential aspects of daily life, including relationships as the entire focus is on the perceived flaws.
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Causes of BDD
Although the exact causes leading to this condition are unknown, it can be said that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is likely to play a role.
Some studies have shown that 8% of the people who had BDD, also had a family member diagnosed with the same condition. Another body of research also indicates that some of the patients have a low level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, whereas some studies also suggest that visual processing in people with BDD is different, which makes them view images or perceive distortions differently.
Most cases of BDD start during adolescence when the changes in the body are happening at an incredible pace. Acceptance of those changes is already a big part of the transition from being a kid to a teenager; and when some of the children are teased about their looks, that doesn’t go well with them. Such encounters of being bullied or teased about their looks may develop into this disorder.
Our perceptions of beauty are largely built by what we see in the media and social media. When we are constantly bombarded with images of perfect bodies on our feed, insecurity builds up regarding our appearance and body image. The impossible beauty standards of what society thinks is attractive make people look at themselves as not good enough. That is one of the significant risk factors these days, profoundly impacting people’s minds.
How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder Diagnosed?
If a person exhibits majority of the symptoms discussed above, they may be at a high risk of suffering from BDD. In this case, seeking professional help from a mental health expert may be the next best step of action. A certified mental health professional will ask you about the family history of mental health conditions, your behaviors, and attitudes in general. After evaluating the symptoms, a doctor may be able to diagnose the disorder. After that, the treatment can start, which is mostly a combination of medications and therapy
Get Treatment from a Trusted Therapist With DocVita
Sharing these uncomfortable feelings is not easy, but if you could relate to what was discussed in this article, we are here to help you. This disorder can be treated, and you can again have a life where you don’t have to think about having flaws constantly.
If you or a loved one is showing the symptoms discussed here, please seek professional help from a trusted therapist at DocVita. We have a team of highly compassionate therapists who are here to help you cultivate a healthier body image and accept your body the way it is.