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Body Dysmorphia - What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
What is Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by severe preoccupation with a perceived physical flaw or defect in the sufferer's appearance. While it often manifests in people who also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and/or eating disorders, it should not be confused with the bad body image that is a common symptom of anorexia or bulmia nervosa.
The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) gives three main criteria for the diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder:Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. If a slight physical anomaly is present, the person's concern is markedly excessive.The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (for example, the dissatisfaction with body shape and size in anorexia nervosa).
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
The preoccupation that occurs with body dysmorphia can manifest itself in different ways for different people. While not all these symptoms will show up in every person who suffers, here are a few of the common signs of BDD:
- compulsively touching the perceived defect
- compulsively looking in mirrors
- OR complete avoidance of mirrors
- excessive grooming
- excessive use of makeup
- excessive dieting
- excessive exercise
- obsession with cosmetic surgery
- constantly seeking feedback about appearance
Books on Body Dysmorphia
Who Has Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Body dysmorphia usually develops in adolescence. While BDD is estimated to affect only 1-2% of the population, this statistic may be lower than the actual numbers, since body dysmorphia is highly under-diagnosed. Many of those who suffer do not reveal their obsessive thoughts and anxiety, for fear of being seen as vain or attention-seeking.
On the contrary, body dysmorphia is a serious mental illness that paralyzes people, impairing social functioning and even bringing people to the point of suicide. More than 3/4 of those with BDD will suffer from major depressive disorder at some point, more than 1/3 will suffer from social phobia, and 15% will attempt suicide as a result of their disorder.
Mirror, Mirror: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Part 1)
Treatment for BDD
Since many BDD sufferers find themselves unable to function in their lives, it's imperative that people with body dysmorphia get help.
This help can come in many forms. Traditional psychotherapy has been shown to provide relief for body dysmorphia, but cognitive behavior therapy can be even more effective. Research indicates that CBT treatment eliminates body dysmorphic disorder in more than 77% of cases. Medication (especially SSRI drugs) can also aid in the alleviation of symptoms.
If you believe that you or someone you love may suffer from body dysmorphia, get help immediately! Body dysmorphia is a chronic disorder that only worsens over time, so it's important to seek treatment as early as possible.