Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Mar 30, 2022, 12:30:12 PM Life and Styles

The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Most everyone deals with insecurities from time to time. Sometimes, though, those insecurities grow out of control and cause a person to develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Every mental illness causes unique challenges in a person’s life, and BDD is no exception. Knowing the signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder can help you spot it, whether in yourself or a friend, and get help when necessary. To begin learning more about BDD, check out some of the articles available here.


What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD is a mental health condition marked by repetitive concentration on one’s appearance. The individual’s negative thoughts about themselves are often difficult to control, and their worry might spiral out of control. An individual with the condition might focus on one specific body part or their appearance as a whole.


The flaws the person sees might be very minor or even nonexistent, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to correct it for hours on end each day. They may exercise a lot, get plastic surgery, or go to other extreme lengths to feel better about themselves. However, their efforts are almost always in vain, and they end up feeling just as poorly afterward.


BDD normally begins in one’s childhood or teen years, and about 1 in 50 people have it. Men and women are just as equally affected.


What are the Signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects a person’s life in multiple areas, often wreaking havoc on their daily functioning. It has several different signs to be on the lookout for. These could include:


●      Avoiding mirrors

●      Anxiety or depression

●      Preoccupation with perceived flaws

●      Constant exercise

●      Constantly asking other people’s opinions of their appearance

●      Excessive grooming

●      Seeing lots of doctors about one’s appearance

●      Feeling shameful

●      Comparing themselves to others

●      Emotional distress

●      Intrusive thoughts

●      Excessively weighing oneself

●      Looking in the mirror all the time

●      Hiding parts of the body under clothing

●      Compulsive behaviors

●      Avoiding photos or social events


BDD can be caused by a variety of events and factors, but the reason it develops isn’t always clear. It is thought to be a mixture of psychological, environmental, and biological factors. If an individual’s family member has BDD, there may be a higher risk of them also having it. They could have abnormal levels of brain chemicals, a certain personality type that predisposes them to BDD, or certain life experiences that have contributed to its development.


Some other causes could include bullying or abuse, low self-esteem, perfectionism, or another mental health disorder like anxiety, OCD, or depression. When these issues arise and aren’t dealt with accordingly, it can lead to the development of other disorders like BDD. This is why it’s vital to seek help whenever a new problem comes up, whether mentally or physically.


If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, reach out right away to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.


How Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder Diagnosed?


If someone seems to have BDD, they should see a mental health professional to get an accurate diagnosis. No one should ever attempt to make a self-diagnosis. In order to be diagnosed with BDD, a person has to:


●      Have an abnormal obsession with a minor or imagined flaw on their body

●      Experience severe disruption in their daily life because of their thoughts about their appearance

●      Not have another mental health condition that could explain away the thoughts and behavior


When someone meets with a mental health expert, they will rule out other disorders before diagnosing someone with BDD. These could include eating disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, or something else.


Can Body Dysmorphic Disorder Be Treated?

Currently, there is no cure for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. However, plenty of treatment options exist that can help a person manage the disorder and improve their symptoms. Some treatment options might include medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Although there aren’t any medications that specifically target BDD, sometimes medications can help other issues like anxiety, depression, or OCD, which in turn reduces the effect of BDD.


To find the best treatment plans, a healthcare professional will look at how severe the problem is, how old the individual is, and what their medical history is like. They’ll also consider the individual’s preferences and expectations for treatment as well as their ability to tolerate certain therapies and medications. Since everyone is unique, not every treatment plan will be the same for two people with BDD. It’s also possible that one treatment plan doesn’t work as well as expected and a new route is needed. 


How to Prevent Body Dysmorphic Disorder

There isn’t any proven way to prevent the development of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. However, since it tends to start early in life, recognizing the condition early is vital and can make a huge difference in treating it. Long-term care is also important to prevent a relapse of symptoms.


Coping with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Although BDD can’t be entirely prevented, there are steps people can take to cope with BDD. Some of these methods include:


●      Going to see a therapist

●      Practicing self-care

●      Getting enough sleep and exercise

●      Eating a healthy diet

●      Meditating

●      Practicing mindfulness techniques

●      Learning stress management

●      Journaling daily

●      Having a good social support system

●      Doing yoga


Learning to cope with BDD starts with an individual knowing themselves well. Once they know what hobbies and tricks make them feel better, they can focus on doing more of those things. As always, everyone will have different ways of coping with their BDD, and all are valid if they are healthy and make the person feel better.


Body Dysmorphic Disorder can limit how normally someone lives their life, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. Through treatment, the right support, and a willing mindset, it is possible to cope with and reduce symptoms of BDD. If this condition is getting in the way of you living your life to the fullest, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone for help. 

Published by Arina Smith

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