Do you feel like there’s a part of your body that you just don’t really like or you want to “fix”? You might be sufferring from a condition called Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Defined as a psychiatric illness or condition where subjective feeling of ugliness or repulsiveness despite the person’s normal appearance can exist, BDD causes the the person to be occupied with the imagined defect in either one feature or several features of their body and can sometimes be blown out of proportion. This can cause psychological distress and can even impairs occupational or social functioning. People with this disorder see themselves as “ugly” and often avoid social exposure to others or even turn to plastic surgery to try to improve their appearance.
BDD is a chronic (long-term) disorder that affects men and women equally. It usually begins during the teen years or early adulthood though the specific causes of this disorder is not known. Like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphic disorder may result from a combination of causes:
- Brain chemical differences. Some evidence suggests that neurotransmitters or naturally occurring brain chemicals linked to mood may play a role in causing body dysmorphic disorder.
- Structural brain differences. Certain areas of the brain may not have developed properly in some people who have body dysmorphic disorder.
- Genes. Some studies show that body dysmorphic disorder is more common in people whose biological family members also have the condition, indicating that there may be a gene or genes associated with this disorder.
- Environment. Your environment, life experiences and culture may contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, especially if they involve negative experiences about your body or self-image. Other external factors that might influence the development of or trigger BDD can include: traumatic events or emotional conflict during childhood; low self-esteem ; parents and others who are critical of the person’s appearance.
People with BDD often worry about hardly noticeable features like skin imperfections like wrinkles, scars, acne, and blemishes; the presence or absence of hair on the head or any body parts; the shape and size of the nose or any other facial features; and body weight. Other areas of concern include the size of the penis, muscles, breasts, thighs, buttocks, and the presence of certain body odors.
How to Spot a Person sufferring from BDD
Some of the warning signs that a person may have BDD include:
- Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoidance of mirrors altogether
- Engaging in repetitive and time-consuming behaviors, such as picking at the skin, and trying to hide or cover up the perceived defect
- Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
- Constantly asking for reassurance that the defect is not visible or too obvious
- Repeatedly measuring or touching the perceived defect
- Experiencing problems at work or school, or in relationships due to the inability to stop focusing about the perceived defect
- Feeling self-conscious and not wanting to go out in public, or feeling anxious when around other people
- Refusal to appear in pictures
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
- Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Comparison of your appearance with that of others
- Chronic low self-esteem and strong feelings of shame.
Treatment for BDD can include a combination of the following therapies:
- Psychotherapy – this can be individual counseling that focuses on changing the thinking and behavior of a person with body dysmorphic disorder, aiming to correct the false belief about the defect and to minimize the compulsive behavior.
- Medication: Certain antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are showing promise in treating body dysmorphic disorder.
- Group and/or family therapy: Family support is very important to treatment success. It is important that family members understand body dysmorphic disorder and learn to recognize its signs and symptoms.
If you think you are suffering from BDD, here are some simple tips that might help you.
- Accept that you cannot please veryone. The moment you set yourself to pleasing everyone veryone is the moment you succumb to loneliness, remorse and dissatisfaction.
- Choose what you read, hear or watch because not all you see are real.
- Rather than having a high standard of beauty, find a partner who will accept you for your flaws and strengths.
- Choose friends who love themselves and inspire you to live healthily and gratefully.