Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder in which patients become obsessed with minor flaws in their appearances. In most cases, these flaws are either imagined or unnoticeable to others. It is a chronic condition that affects both men and women and it is most common in teenagers and young adults. We had the experts at a plastic surgery clinic in Arizona PeoriaCosmeticSurgery.com answer some questions about Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

What are the causes?

About 2.5% of males and 2.2% of females in the United States are suffering from BDD and it usually goes undiagnosed. Researchers are not sure of the exact causes of BDD yet, but they associate it with the following:

  • Environmental factors - Bad traumatic experiences, such as abuse, bullying, childhood neglect and appearance-obsessed parents may contribute to developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
  • Genetics -Some studies have shown that BDD runs in family. It is more common in people whose blood relatives suffer either from BDD or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Brain structure -Brain chemical imbalance or brain abnormality can contribute to developing BDD, according to some studies
  • Low self-esteem - Having a low self-esteem can lead people to obsess on a certain aspect of their appearance they do not like, which could lead to BDD
  • Depression or anxiety - People suffering from anxiety or depression and other mental health conditions are also at risk of developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • The influence of media and society as well as peer pressure were also identified as a factor causing poor body image

What are the symptoms?

People who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder may obsess over one or several body parts at the same time, with the focus changing sometimes to new features. The most common areas of concern are skin, hair, facial features, weight or muscle size. People with BDD might obsess about their appearance for hours or even an entire day. Some of the common symptoms and signs connected to BDD include:

  • Obsessing over a flaw in the appearance. This flaw usually cannot be seen by others or is very insignificant
  • Seeking constant reassurance about appearance from others
  • Developing repetitive behaviors such as checking mirrors excessively, avoiding mirrors altogether or skin picking (excoriation)
  • Spending a lot of time comparing looks with others
  • Spending a lot of time and efforts trying to hide these flaws with makeup or camouflaging them with clothes
  • Suffering from a low self-esteem
  • Avoiding social interactions and situations which might affect social life, school or work
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Consulting medical specialists repeatedly, such as plastic surgeons or dermatologists, to change the area of concern without finding satisfying results

What is the best treatment?

Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder includes cognitive behavioral therapy and medication:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - CBT is a form of talking therapy that helps patients understand their condition and identify the triggers that lead to such unhealthy thinking and behavior. It usually uses a technique called Exposure and Response Prevention. The goal of this treatment is to build a better self-esteem and to develop practical skills to manage the negative thoughts and behaviours. It may also include family sessions because family support is very important for the success of the treatment
  • Medication - antidepressant medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is prescribed to BDD patients because it has shown promising results in treating and reducing obsessive thoughts and behaviors caused by this disorder.
  • Combination of Treatments - Effective treatment is usually tailored according to the patient's needs with many doctors using a combination of the aforementioned treatments for the best results

Suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder does not mean that a person is vain or self-obsessed. It is a serious condition that affects life and it might lead to self-harm, depression or even suicidal thoughts. It is not something to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, this disorder usually does not get better on its own, so it is very important to seek help from a medical or a mental health professional, if you feel that you or someone close to you is showing the symptoms.

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