Body Dysmorphic Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition that affects people around the world. It is a mental health disorder that causes a person to fixate on their bodily imperfections.

A person who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder obsesses over their imperfections. They have constant and unavoidable negative thoughts about their appearance. They will agonize over their looks, even if they are perfectly presentable.

People with this disorder struggle as a result of their insecurities. They often struggle with socializing. They can struggle with school and their career. They have relationship issues, and often isolate themselves from others.

People with this condition fear judgement from others. This makes socializing very difficult to do. People often do not understand the distress the affected person is feeling.

Family and friends do not see the imperfections that affected people obsess over. This can cause tension in relationships and cause affected people to isolate.

People with this condition do not believe when others say that their flaws are not real. They believe that they are hideous, even if they look flawless. Affected people are afraid of others seeing their flaws. Their perceived flaws cause them to feel shamed and embarrassed.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder causes an affected person to suffer from many upsetting symptoms. People who have this disorder are obsessed with their appearance.

Every time they look in the mirror they only see their imperfections- real or imagined. They are constantly thinking about what flaws other people will see. This causes them to have low self-esteem.

People with body dysmorphic disorder have thoughts that take over their day-to-day lives. They are constantly distracted with how they look. They struggle with being around other people.

When in public, affected people will try to hide their imperfections. They may try to compensate for them or conceal them in some way. Such measures to conceal their imperfections include:

  • Sitting in unusual positions
  • Wearing baggy or concealing clothing
  • Wearing a lot of makeup or facial accessories
  • Covering parts of their face or body with their hair
  • Undergoing surgical procedures in attempt to fix imperfections
  • Constantly checking appearance in the mirror
  • Avoiding looking at reflection in mirror or passing windows
  • Repetitively seeking reassurance from trusted friends and family

Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is caused by a number of factors. There are different components that come into play as the condition develops.

An affected individual often also suffers from a number of different issues, including:

Low Self-Esteem.

Body dysmorphic disorder is typically caused in part by low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem tend to be critical of themselves in some way. The self-criticism and low self-esteem can result in developing the disorder.

Other Mental Health Issues.

Body dysmorphic disorder is often co-occurring with other mental health disorders. This means that one condition is experienced at the same time another condition. The two conditions affect each other simultaneously.

Common mental health disorders that may be co-occurring with body dysmorphic disorder include:

Criticism by Family and Peers.

Body dysmorphic disorder can stem from criticism from others. Growing up with critical parents or family members can result in body image issues.

Children who are exposed to critical people are at risk of developing the condition. This is especially true for those who grew up with people who criticized their looks.

Modeling in the Home.

Body dysmorphic disorder can develop from learned influence. This is the case for children who had family members who found their worth in appearances. These family members often pushed perfection. In this case, the children may pick up the obsessive habits that were modeled for them.

A child who is not taught proper values with guidance becomes self-critical. This self-criticism and need for perfection can develop into body dysmorphic disorder.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is treatable. Affected people can recover from the disorder. It is challenging, and it takes time and patience.

There are several components needed in the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder. It will include private counseling and therapy. It sometimes includes group counseling and family therapy as well. In many cases, a treatment team may also suggest antidepressant medication. This is used to help with symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is the method of therapy for people with this condition. CBT teaches an affected person how their negative thought patterns fuel their condition.

With CBT, the affected person learns how to challenge negative thoughts. They learn how to change their perspective of who they are to be healthy and productive. They learn how to forgive their imperfections. This makes them less distressing and devastating.

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