What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?
Everyone has days when they feel nervous about some part of their appearance or believe they do not look their best. But if you spend a great deal of time agonizing over, hiding, or attempting to remedy perceived imperfections, you may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). You are not alone, as around 1 in 50 individuals with BDD. This illness affects men and women of all ages, although the majority of instances manifest in early adolescence.
If you have body dysmorphic disorder, you may believe that your view of your body is vastly different from what your family and friends say. Even though you consider certain features of your look to be weird or unsightly, others do not share your opinion. While you know that your loved ones are accurate, you are unable to avoid the worry and anxiety that your body image generates.
If this describes you, it does not indicate that you are insane, self-absorbed, or vain. BDD is a true psychiatric condition that is treatable and self-manageable.
Common Features People With BDD
With body dysmorphic disorder, any element of the face or body is fair game. However, the following are the most frequently targeted:
- Features of the face, such as the nose.
- Skin (moles, freckles, scars, acne).
- Muscle size or tone.
- Size and form of the breasts or genitalia.
- Hair (including facial and body hair).
You may believe there is nothing you can do to feel better about your appearance unless you get plastic surgery or wave a magic wand. With the correct coping strategies, however, you may develop the ability to “step outside of yourself” and evaluate your looks in a more holistic and positive light.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder vs. Normal Insecurities
It’s normal to occasionally obsess on a giant zit or the size of your thighs. But if your fixation with your looks causes you substantial grief or interferes with your daily life, you may be dealing with a more serious issue.
Is there a certain aspect of your appearance that jumps out at you when you glance in the mirror? Do you feel compelled to constantly seek reassurance from your family and friends, even if you don’t trust them when they say everything seems fine? BDD may exist if the desire to enhance your physique or eliminate a certain “flaw” dominates your thoughts and actions.
Signs And Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
If you have body dysmorphic disorder, you probably spend a great deal of time fixating on the body part you feel to be faulty and what others think of it. Worrying about your flaws might induce feelings of depression, anxiety, embarrassment, or terrible ugliness. It can even induce suicidal thoughts.
Additional BDD indications and symptoms include:
- Checking your reflection repeatedly in the mirror or avoiding mirrors entirely. Do you obsessively examine your reflection, even when you are alone? Do you avoid mirrors because seeing your reflection makes you uncomfortable?
- Isolating yourself in order to conceal the problematic body portion from others. This involves avoiding work, school, social gatherings, and public areas due to anxiety about being observed. Or just leaving the house at night or during times when you are less likely to encounter other people.
- Expending much effort concealing or concealing the apparent defect. You may utilize clothes, cosmetics, and/or accessories to conceal the area of concern. You may also posture your body to conceal the “defect.” Do you attempt to conceal it with hats, scarves, and baggy pants, or do you wear weather-inappropriate clothing?
- Making every effort to avoid being photographed. You avoid social events at which photographs will be taken. Do you monitor images taken by others and posted on social media to ensure your “flaw” is not visible?
- undergoing cosmetic surgery in order to address the apparent flaw. You could feel that plastic surgery is the answer to all your issues. Even if you have had a procedure, you may not be satisfied with the outcomes.
- Injuring yourself by constantly picking at your skin Additionally, skin plucking may be a sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, if it is done for the purpose of improving looks, it is more indicative of BDD.
- Negatively comparing oneself to others. This involves comparing oneself to celebrities or older images of yourself. The emphasis is on how awful your “flaw” seems relative to others.
- Exerting much effort to alter the feature by extreme activity or tanning. If you have BDD, you may feel dissatisfied with your hair, get frequent haircuts, and refrain from going out after getting one.
- Overspending on personal grooming. You devote a considerable portion of your income or allowance to items and services meant to improve your appearance. However, you soon get disillusioned with these products and seek a more effective cure.
Muscle Dysmorphia: A Common Subtype of BDD
Muscle dysmorphia is a kind of body dysmorphic disorder characterized by a perception that one’s muscles are too small. Although this can affect both genders, males are more likely to be affected.
Muscle dysmorphia, like body dysmorphic disorder in general, can be difficult to identify. Since patients may be commended for their discipline and dedication to their health, you may first believe that this is a success. However, if you recognize the following signs, it may be time to reconsider:
- Excessive activity and weightlifting, sometimes for several hours every day.
- A preoccupation with calorie counting
- Avoiding restaurants owing to a perceived lack of food selection control.
- Combining carbs, lipids, proteins, and vitamins to produce the “ideal” balance.
- Observing a strict mealtime routine.
- Either overly inspecting mirrors and shiny surfaces or avoiding them.
- Putting on numerous layers of garments to make one look larger.
- Using anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing substances.
- Your self-worth is solely determined by your muscular mass.
Causes And Risk Factors of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Uncertainty is the precise origins of body dysmorphic disorder, but genetic and environmental factors undoubtedly play a role. Studies indicate that 8% of individuals with BDD have a close relative with the disorder. This indicates that there may be a genetic factor that enhances the likelihood of getting BDD.
Research reveals that some individuals with BDD have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, although a causal relationship has not yet been demonstrated. Other research implies that visual processing in the brain may alter in those with BDD, which may influence how they perceive pictures or distortions.
Childhood sexual, emotional, or physical abuse may increase the risk of developing body dysmorphic disorder. The consequences of social variables, such as being taunted about one’s physical appearance, can be long-lasting. Many of us have experienced some form of bullying as children, and we are aware of how damaging it can be to our feelings about ourselves.
Our ideas of attractiveness and physical appearance are also significantly influenced by the society we inhabit. Our culture places a tremendous deal of importance on what is seen to be attractive. We are inundated with pictures of beautiful bodies on television, in publications, and on social media platforms. Particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies, attempting to live up to these expectations can lead to feelings of diminished self-worth and self-esteem. It might exacerbate concerns over one’s own appearance by causing one to exaggerate the attractiveness of others. It is simple to understand how this may cause BDD patients to experience anxiety, despair, and humiliation.
Is There A Relationship Between BDD and OCD?
BDD and OCD symptoms overlap in a variety of ways. They both typically exhibit repeated activities, such as skin-picking and continuous mirror gazing, during adolescence. BDD focuses solely on compulsive behaviors linked to appearance, whereas OCD can involve a wide range of obsessive thoughts and actions.
In addition, those with BDD have a harder time comprehending and accepting their symptoms than those with OCD. It is also possible to have both BDD and OCD concurrently; thus, it is essential to have a precise diagnosis and appropriate therapy.
Mental Health, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, And Eating Disorders
BDD may be accompanied by other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or sadness. Being obsessed with one’s appearance can cause significant distress. Your repetitious habits serve as a coping method to alleviate some of your worries.
Constantly concentrating on flaws might hinder daily functioning by inducing emotions of poor self-esteem, social anxiety, humiliation, and embarrassment. This may result in extreme depression, suicidal ideation, and even suicide attempts. It is essential that you do not suffer in silence but instead seek assistance and support.
Some individuals with BDD also suffer from eating issues. Included in this category are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Individuals with both BDD and eating disorders have pervasive negative thoughts regarding their looks and how it impacts their sense of self-worth. However, there are also differences between these conditions. A diagnosis of an eating disorder requires inappropriate eating behaviors, but a diagnosis of BDD does not.
Getting Help For Body Dysmorphic Disorder
If you identify yourself in the list of symptoms and have chosen to seek assistance, you have taken a vital step toward recovery. Research indicates that many individuals with BDD see a dermatologist for ten years before consulting a mental health specialist.
You may think that people will perceive you as conceited or self-absorbed if you seek assistance for your urge. As with other anxiety-based illnesses, help is accessible.
Options For Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder is treated with both individual and group psychotherapy as well as medication.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the only research-based psychological treatment for BDD. It focuses on altering the mental and behavior patterns brought on by the disorder. Your therapist will assist you in identifying anxious circumstances and developing healthy coping techniques. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, you can learn to perceive your body through a more objective and forgiving lens.
- The use of medication to treat body dysmorphic disorder. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a kind of antidepressant, may help alleviate the obsessive thoughts and behaviors characteristic of BDD, according to a study. They may help alleviate the anxiety and despair that frequently accompany BDD. With a more relaxed state of mind, you may find it simpler to engage in CBT.
Self-Help For Body Dysmorphic Disorder Tip 1: Redirect Your Attention
In addition to obtaining professional assistance, remember that self-help may be an effective technique. Thoughts and actions that are compulsive do not have to govern your life.
Refocusing your attention on the present requires practice but offers enormous mental and physical health advantages. There are two ways that may be helpful: concentrating on everyday tasks and formal meditation. These two coping strategies are complementary and may be included in your everyday routine.
Mundane Task Focusing
Many of us perform domestic duties on autopilot. When washing the dishes or brushing your teeth, do you actively consider what you are doing? Or is your mind wandering, perhaps preparing for the day or fretting over your appearance? Create a list of the usual activities you perform when your mind is most prone to wander.
Try practicing awareness, for instance, the next time you vacuum the floor. Engage your senses and observe the vacuum’s interaction with the carpet. What sounds are associated with this activity? Does your home’s odor alter as you move the vacuum around the room?
If you sense that your focus is waning, do not punish yourself. Simply bring your thoughts back to the present. Awareness training helps shift your attention away from your body and any negative self-talk.
Meditation, which at first may appear uncomfortable, becomes less difficult with practice. Begin by following one of HelpGuide’s guided meditations, or try the basic meditation below.
As you become more used to meditation, you can expand the length of your sessions. The objective is to refocus yourself and divert your attention away from recurring concerns about your looks.
Tip 2: Practice Self-compassion
In addition to meditation, self-compassion is a sort of awareness. According to studies, those with greater self-compassion exhibit fewer body dysmorphic symptoms. Consider how you may use this in your daily life to reduce your stress and anxiety. Learning to accept your flaws, especially during difficult circumstances, is a component of self-compassion.
Most of us are kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Negative self-talk leads to increased self-criticism and a skewed self-image. We may grow so accustomed to this inner debate that we fail to recognize this damaging practice. Consider how you would speak to a close friend or family member and use the same compassionate tone and understanding to yourself. Self-love and self-acceptance, despite our shortcomings, is a crucial aspects of the healing process.
Abused and neglected individuals are more likely to indulge in self-criticism. When you practice self-compassion, you remain cognizant of painful thoughts and emotions, but you do not exaggerate them. Once you become aware of your negative self-talk, you may make a serious effort to replace it with positive affirmations.
Believe it or not, a few minutes of self-compassion may completely transform your day. You may have fewer emotions of shame if you use compassionate language and are supportive of yourself. Repetition of statements such as “I am deserving of love and kindness” will eventually replace harsh self-criticism and continual self-judgment. Kindness toward oneself may alter one’s ideas and actions, therefore increasing emotions of self-confidence and self-worth.
Tip 3: Start A Journaling Habit
Writing your thoughts, ideas, and emotions in a notebook or diary is an excellent method of self-expression. There is no need for a lengthy, formal entry, nor is precise spelling or punctuation required. This practice might be as straightforward as writing a few words. Set aside a few minutes every day and simply let the writing flow effortlessly. Having a scheduled time for this and using the same diary or app may be useful.
Writing down your thoughts and emotions might help you recognize and overcome difficult days. You may be astonished by how well this tool alleviates your worry and improves your mood. Keeping a journal might also help you prioritize your concerns. By keeping note of your BDD symptoms, you may identify their causes and employ mindfulness and meditation to regulate them more successfully.
Tip 4: Reduce Negative Predictions
Once you grow more adept at regulating your thoughts, you may use these coping skills to calm yourself before confronting a trigger. This may include a birthday celebration or a professional meeting with a room full of strangers in which you feel self-conscious about your looks.
If you have BDD, you may default to pessimistic expectations regarding the outcome of a given occurrence. You may begin to picture the worse, such as that everyone will make fun of you or that nobody would want to associate with you due to your “flaw.” However, the reality is far less upsetting.
Try putting down your darkest phobias in your journal or a thinking diary the next time you find yourself spinning into worry. Try to come up with a more realistic outcome once you have acknowledged them. Instead of thinking, “No one will speak to me,” consider: Try, “Perhaps I will meet someone fresh and have an engaging talk with them.” It is essential, though, not to overestimate your abilities and set yourself up for failure. Consider lesser, yet still, good expectations, rather than fantasizing, “Everyone will tell me I’m lovely” or “I’ll meet the love of my life.”
Tip 5: Seek Social Support
There are several sources of assistance accessible to you, so remember to keep the lines of contact open. Be careful not to separate yourself from people. Your intimate circle of family and friends is sincerely concerned with your health and well-being.
If you feel more comfortable confiding in people with similar concerns, there are several BDD-specific support groups. These groups provide a secure space in which you may freely discuss your difficulties. It is also a chance to offer encouragement and support to others. Some meetings are also available remotely, which is handy if you reside in a rural location or must adhere to social distance regulations.
Being proactive and responsible for one’s own health is really powerful. As you manage the problems of BDD, it may present you with fresh opportunities for accountability and healing.
How To Help A Child With Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder often occurs between the ages of 12 and 13. As a parent, you may first struggle to distinguish between teenage anxieties and anything more severe.
According to research, BDD is frequently underdiagnosed and underrecognized. In addition, it shares symptoms with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety. The good news is that treatment plans for these co-occurring disorders are frequently comparable and effective.
Here are some methods to assist your child or a family member:
Inform yourself about BDD. This illness frequently causes external confusion. In truth, the physical abnormalities that patients are so fixated on are indiscernible or quite minor. However, it is essential not to belittle their suffering and instead confront the matter with empathy and compassion.
Nurture a supportive environment to encourage therapy. Spend quality time with your loved ones and express your concern for them. Even if they reject your guarantees on their physical appearance, they will sense your support. Avoid forcing therapy on them or making them feel guilty.
Hone your listening abilities. Simply letting someone know that you are prepared to offer an ear may have a significant impact. If they do confide in you, refrain from passing judgment and control your responses. As you encourage them to get therapy, emphasize how they may benefit from the assistance of a trained expert rather than how their conduct concerns you.
Look for yourself. Recognize that your loved one’s illness will cause them to experience ups and downs. Keep the difficult moments in perspective and practice self-care regularly. You may benefit from seeing a therapist or joining a support group.