Are you genuinely content with what you see in the mirror? We all have things we wish we could change, large nose, acne, discoloration of our skin, and the list goes on. Most of us are able to live with the flaw(s) in our lives and not allow it to become a nuisance in our everyday lives but someone with BDD it becomes the focal point of their life, overtaking every moment, thinking and figuring out solutions to their flaw.
When you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), every imperfection that you feel will become an obsession. It debilitates your everyday life where your thoughts are controlled by concealing these imperfections, seek verbal approval on your physical attributes even though every compliment that someone gives you, will never be genuine to you, social isolation, and depression and anxiety usually forms due to the constant need for perfection. BDD afflicts men and women equally and usually begins in adolescence. It is usually characterized by a flaw that is imagined or hardly noticeable by the general population. It causes the individual to lose their quality of life because that one flaw is perceived as the main focal point of one’s life. People who tries to work on that flaw whether through excessive exercising or extreme cases, plastic surgery to fix the flaw, are still not satisfied with the result which causes them to have multiple visits with the plastic surgeon.
The difference between an eating disorder where you are preoccupied by your overall body shape and weight, BDD is focused on a specific part of the body. The obsession over your flaw affects your interpersonal, work, and family relationships.
Some of the most common symptoms of BDD include acne on your skin, size of your breasts, hair on your head, size, shape and symmetry of your face or body part. People with BDD portrays behaviors and obsessions such as checking their flaw in the mirror several times a day or on the other side, avoiding mirrors, wearing excessive makeup to hide or distract from the flaw, undergoing medical procedures often specifically plastic surgery to minimize the flaw but with non-satisfactory results. seeking verbal praise or reassurance from others, excessive exercising, and obsessive thoughts throughout the day that affects your work, school or social life. If this disorder is untreated it can lead to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, this disorder goes untreated or unnoticed by many specialist and clinicians since BDD individuals are able to hide their compulsions and obsessions very easily from the general public. They can also be misdiagnosed for a social phobia or depressive disorder.
What causes someone to have BDD? Researchers believe that it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Factors that increases the chance of having BDD stems from childhood situations such as bullying, having low self-esteem, growing in a household where adult figures emphasizes the importance of physical beauty, and placing strong societal pressure of what is perceived to be beautiful. The treatment for BDD is therapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with anti-depressants have worked greatly in treating this disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which focuses on recognizing irrational thought patterns and replace these negative/irrational thoughts with a positive one has been a great tool for people suffering from BDD. As clinicians we need to recognize this disorder especially with our adolescent clients and provide a safe environment for them to express their feelings on their self-worth and image.
Phillips, Katherine, A Body Dysmorphic Disorder: recognizing and treating imagined ugliness. World Psychiatry. 2004 (Feb); 3(1): 12-17
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)? International OCD Foundation
MSW (Masters in Social Work)