By: Nikki Nies
If you were to ask a group of girls or guys if they have body dysmorphic, it’s not an appropriate or useful question to ask. Many of us have at least one feature about our body and/or appearance we would like to change. Although, we may notice these features, we accept these aspects of our body and it doesn’t interfere with our daily lives.
How do you differentiate the mere notice of one’s beauty imperfections versus body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)? Those with BDD (aka dysmorphophobia) fixate on their perceived imperfections and flaws for hours to days. Common perceived flaws are associated with body weight, teeth, lips, wrinkles, skin, hair, nose, chest or stomach. These negative thought battles are a constant presence in daily life, with one struggling to accept and believe other’s compliments and praise. Missed days of work, plastic surgery, withdrawal from social events and/or social isolation may occur as it’s perceived it’s easier to retreat to solitary activities to limit opportunities for criticism of flaws. While those with BDD find the flaws prominent and significant, in reality, these flaw minor or nonexistent.
1% of the American population are said to have BDD, with men and women equally diagnosed. The specific causes are unclear and can be multifactorial, including environmental and genetic predispositions.
BDD can lead to: low self-esteem,; camouflaging with clothing, makeup, body position, hair; comparing body parts to other’s; seeking surgery; repeatedly consulting with medical specialists; fixation with one’s appearance in mirror; extreme self-consciousness; feeling the need to be housebound; the need to seek reassurance about appearance from others; avoiding mirrors; strong belief that imperfections make one’s ugly; skin picking; excessive grooming; excessive exercise and/or changing clothes excessively.
It’s common for those with BDD to also suffer from anxiety, depression, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and/or eating disorders. Identifying BDD can be hard as it has a lot of the same overlapping symptoms of eating disorders, but it is a precursor for the development of eating disorders (i.e. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, EDNOS, etc.). By curbing negative BDD actions, one can prevent or curb impending negative thought and eating disorders.
A scientific diagnosis can only be obtained by someone with expertise in BDD. However, taking a self test for adults and adolescents can help one assess current thoughts and status of BDD. With the help of a trained health professional, use of group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or antidepressant medications, BDD symptoms can be alleviated.
Please talk to your primary care physician or reach out to a loved one for help, if you find yourself struggling with BDD like symptoms.