What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder – a severe form of body image dissatisfaction – is a type of anxiety disorder. People with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) worry about their appearance. They worry, for example, that their body is fat, their skin is ugly, their hair is thinning, their nose is too big, or something else is wrong with the physical appearance of their body. They can worry about their body flaw for an hour or more each day.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Distorted Body Perceptions
Those with BDD have several distorted beliefs about a perceived body flaw. When others tell them they look fine or that the flaw isn’t noticeable, people with this disorder don’t hear or believe it.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Consequences
The person with BDD may also experience periods of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts because of their preoccupation with their perceived body problem. Although some people with body dysmorphic disorder manage to function well despite their distress, many are more seriously affected by the disorder. For example, they may find it hard to concentrate on their job or school work, which may suffer, and relationship problems are common. People with BDD may have few friends, avoid dating, miss school, and feel very self-conscious in social situations. Some BDD sufferers even contemplate suicide.
What Causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
BDD is believed to be associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain, which may be genetically based. BDD seems to affect women and men equally. A person whose family has a high incidence of mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders seems to be at higher risk. See also: Body Shape and Body Image/ Body Shape
Possible Signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorders
Frequently comparing appearance with that of others; scrutinizing the appearance of others
Frequently checking appearance of the specific body part in mirrors and other reflective surfaces
Camouflaging the perceived defect with clothing, makeup, hats, hands, or posture
Seeking surgery, dermatological treatment, or other medical treatment when doctors or other people have said that the flaws are minimal or that such treatment isn’t necessary
Seeking reassurance about the flaw or attempting to convince others of its ugliness
Excessive grooming, like combing hair, shaving, removing or cutting hair, applying makeup
Frequently touching the perceived defect
Measuring the disliked body part
Excessively researching the defective body part
Exercising or dieting excessively
Feeling very anxious and self-conscious around other people because of the perceived defect
Treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Therapy and medication are the primary treatment methods for body dysmorphic disorder.
Medications include: serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs or SSRIs). These medications are fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa) and clomipramine (Anafranil). They can significantly relieve BDD bodily preoccupation and anxiety; significantly increasing control over one’s thoughts and behaviors; and improving functioning. Although the medication may not cure the disorder, it makes the patient more amenable to therapy and receiving ongoing treatment.
Medications for body dysmorphic disorder are often used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy – a type pf psycho-therapy in which the therapist helps the person with BDD resist compulsive BDD behaviors (for example, mirror checking) and face avoided situations (for example, social situations). Cognitive approaches include helping the person with BDD develop a more realistic view of their appearance.
Sources include: UK National Health Service.
See also: Body Shape and Body Image/ Body Shape
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