Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in one’s appearance that are not observable or appear only slight to others. People with BDD may engage in repetitive behaviors such as mirror checking, skin picking, and seeking frequent reassurance. BDD can have a significant impact on daily functioning, including social isolation, depression, and even suicide. It is treated with a combination of therapy, medication, and self-help strategies.
Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) include:
- Preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws or defects in one’s appearance that are not observable or appear only slight to others. This preoccupation may cause significant distress and can consume a significant amount of time each day.
- Repetitive behaviors such as mirror checking, skin picking, and seeking frequent reassurance from others.
- Avoidance of social situations, or social isolation, due to fear of negative evaluations of one’s appearance.
- Difficulty functioning in daily life due to preoccupation with appearance.
- Depression, anxiety, and/or suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
- Frequently visiting dermatologist, plastic surgeons, seeking for treatment and surgery.
- Engaging in excessive grooming, styling, or clothing selection.
It’s important to note that having one or two of these symptoms does not necessarily mean a person has BDD, but if you or someone you know is experiencing multiple of these symptoms, it may be worth consulting a mental health professional for further evaluation.
What causes body dysmorphic disorder?
The exact cause of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Some possible causes and risk factors include:
- Genetics: Studies have shown that BDD may be more common in individuals who have a family member with the disorder.
- Brain chemistry: Research has suggested that abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, may be involved in the development of BDD.
- Environmental factors: Trauma, abuse, or neglect may increase the risk of developing BDD.
- Social and cultural influences: Societal pressure to conform to certain beauty standards may contribute to the development of BDD.
- Cognitive factors: People with BDD often have a negative body image, distorted self-perception, and perfectionism which can contribute to the development of BDD.
It is important to note that the cause of BDD is likely to be multifactorial, and that the development of the disorder is likely the result of a complex interaction of several factors.
Who can develop body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can affect individuals of all ages, races, and genders. The following groups of people are more susceptible to develop BDD:
- Teenagers and young adults – Studies have shown that the onset of BDD is most likely to occur in adolescence and early adulthood.
- People with a history of mental health issues – Individuals with a history of anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be at a higher risk of developing BDD.
- People with a family history of BDD or other mental health conditions – Individuals with a family history of BDD or other mental health conditions may be more susceptible to develop the disorder.
- People who are dissatisfied with their physical appearance.
- People who have excessive grooming habits or skin picking habits
- People who have excessive exercise habits
It’s important to remember that anyone can develop BDD, and it’s not a reflection of one’s strength or weakness. If you suspect you may have BDD, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
How is body dysmorphic disorder diagnosed?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. The process typically includes:
- A thorough medical and mental health evaluation: This will include a discussion of the person’s symptoms, medical history, and current medications.
- A diagnostic assessment: The professional will use diagnostic tools such as the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for BDD (BDD-YBOCS) or the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Examination (BDDE) to determine if the person meets the criteria for BDD.
- Differential diagnosis: The professional will also rule out other mental health conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as depression, social anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Physical examination: The professional may also perform a physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the person’s symptoms.
It’s important to note that, BDD is often underdiagnosed and misunderstood, and therefore, it may take several visits with a mental health professional to receive a proper diagnosis. It’s also important to find a professional who has experience with BDD, as the disorder can be complex and requires specific treatment approach.
How is body dysmorphic disorder treated?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is typically treated using the following methods:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a form of therapy that helps individuals change their negative thought patterns and behaviors.
- Medications – Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help reduce symptoms of BDD.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – This is a type of therapy that helps individuals gradually confront and overcome their fears related to their appearance.
- Support groups – Joining a support group can help people with BDD connect with others who understand their struggles and can offer support and advice.
- Medically necessary treatment – Many people with BDD may benefit from working with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to address any physical concerns they may have.
- Psychiatric evaluation – A psychiatric evaluation and treatment plan should be done by a mental health professional.
It’s important to note that treatment for BDD can take time and may require multiple interventions. It’s also important to work with a mental health professional who have experience in treating BDD.
Can body dysmorphic disorder be prevented?
There is currently no known way to prevent body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). However, early identification and treatment of the disorder can help mitigate its effects. It’s also important to address any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to the development of BDD. Additionally, some people may be able to reduce their risk of developing BDD by learning to cope with stress and anxiety in healthy ways, such as through regular exercise, yoga, or meditation.
It’s also important to remember that BDD is a mental disorder and not a choice, so it’s not something that could be prevented by changing your behavior or mindset.
It’s important to seek help if you think you may have BDD, or if you notice that your concerns about your appearance are affecting your quality of life. A mental health professional can provide a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.