Things to know about body dysmorphic disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a clinical condition that affects people, irrespective of the age group or gender. It is a relatively common mental disorder characterized by an individual’s distressing preoccupation with real or perceived flaws in his or her appearance. People with this body image disorder cannot just stop thinking about the flaws, which is either too minor or not noticeable at all. 

People with a history of depression and social phobia are more susceptible to develop BDD. It also shares some of its characteristics with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. However, BDD is a distinct psychological disorder which can interfere with daily functioning, and affect work and social life, as well as relationships. Thus, it is important to recognize its symptoms so that necessary help could be sought, before things go out of control. Here are a few things about BDD that may help one understand and distinguish the disorder from other similar conditions:

  1. BDD is a serious illness: It is a chronic condition that can prove devastating, cause severe distress and may impact a person’s ability to perform socially. BDD can make sufferers extremely self-conscious. Although the disorder can affect all age groups, it is mostly found among teenagers or adolescents, or around puberty when an individual is most sensitive about his or her appearance.

    Studies have shown that BDD affects men and women equally. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), one percent of the U.S. population suffers from BDD.

  2. Preoccupation with real or imaginary defects or flaws: Physical appearance is not all about being perfect, which implies that it is more important to be confident and be ready to love oneself for who he or she is. However, this is not the case with people with BDD. They are overly conscious about a flaw that may or may not be visible to onlookers
  3. Ritualistic behavior: People with BDD cannot control their perceived thoughts about appearance and often develop compulsive or repetitive behaviors in order to conceal or improve the defects. Such behaviors may include camouflaging, hair pulling, constantly looking in a mirror, skin picking, excessive grooming/exercise or cheek biting.
  4. BDD is different from self-obsession: An individual with BDD has a distorted view of his or her appearance, and hence, rather than loving it, the person feels ashamed of his or her appearance. Such people believe they are ugly and that others too perceive them as flawed.
  5. Emotional distress and shame: BDD may arise due to past experiences, for instance, if a person was abused or teased or bullied as a child, it can lead to an impact on his or her self-esteem and make him or her ashamed, embarrassed or anxious and cause severe emotional distress

The cause of BDD is not certain, however, dynamics such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences, chemical imbalance in the brain and personality traits may contribute to the development of the illness.

Seeking help

People with BDD shy away from seeking help. They feel ashamed of their flaws so much so that they become reluctant to talk to an expert, which makes its diagnosis difficult. But, just like any other physical illness, BDD needs medical attention because if left untreated, the condition may completely take over the entire life and lead to severe forms of depression and anxiety, and even suicide.

If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health disorder, including BDD, consult a mental health professional immediately. You can get in touch with 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for details on mental health counseling programs available in your vicinity or mental health rehabilitation centers across the U.S. You may call us at our helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our experts to gain more information about various mental health services.