Body Dysmorphic Disorder (dysmorphophobia) is defined by the DSM-5™ as a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance not observable, or appear only slight to others, combined with repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to the appearance concerns (not to be confused with symptoms that meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.)
Most of us, at some time in our life, have been dissatisfied with our appearance. We have felt unattractive, or what we saw as a flaw – like the shape of our nose, ears, mouth, or freckles (I was born with freckles and always felt self-conscious about them) – we felt others saw these things as hideous. Those are normal feelings, especially when one’s body is developing into adulthood. But for someone with BDD these feelings continue to the point they become obsessed with their looks. They feel they look ‘unattractive”, “not right”, “hideous” or “like a monster” (DSM-5™ page 243).
Their feelings become obsessive to the point where their behaviors become repetitive, or mental acts, such as comparing themselves to others. These behaviors become something the person feels driven to do even though these behaviors increase their anxiety and dysphoria
Some signs and symptoms of BDD are:
- Thinking about their appearance at least an hour a day.
- Fixate on a perceived flaw by staring at said flaw in a mirror or reflective surface for extended periods of time, or the opposite reaction of avoiding mirrors/reflective surfaces because of said flaw.
- Use of make-up, posture, clothing to cover up flawed body area.
- Repeated reassurance seeking.
- Frequent appointments with plastic surgeons seeking help with the ‘flawed’ area.
- Repeated plastic surgery or treatments.
- Compulsive picking of skin (with fingernails or tweezers) to remove the blighted area.
- Avoid public places, work, school, parties, going out with friends and family due to the way they perceive others see them.
- Keeping the obsessions and compulsions a secret because feel shame.
- Experience self-disgust, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thinking, etc.
- The above bullet list came from the International OCD Foundation website.
As you can see, Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a nightmare for those who develop this disorder.
What causes it?
According to the Mayo Clinic, people can develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder due to a variety of reasons. Those reasons may include:
- Genetics – family history of the disorder
- Brain abnormalities
- Negative body/self-image
But there are not conclusive findings to an exact cause. It is important to remember no one wishes to have this disorder. This is not something they caused. It is something that develops, for any number of reasons, over time and therefor will take time to treat and get under control.
Under control means the person will be able to lead a happy productive life, but only if they get the treatment they need.
Treatments that may include medication, behavioral therapy, and a number of other options that are available through a medical and psychological treatment team.
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