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Body Dysmorphia: What Everybody Should Know

It is unfortunate, but most of us have something about our bodies we are not particularly fond of. This can range from feeling down about a few extra pounds around the waistline to not liking the shape of our nose. However, most of these imperfections don’t impact our daily lives – even though we wish we could change them. However, there are some people out there who let it affect their lives to an extreme. These individuals suffer from something known as body dysmorphia. This is a debilitating disease and knowing the facts revolving around this issue is imperative.

What is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphic disorder also referred to simply as BDD, is a body image disorder. This disorder causes the individual to think about real and perceived flaws for hours on end. Their negative thoughts are overpowering and uncontrollable. Body dysmorphia causes an individual to dislike and fixate on certain parts of their body. Most of the time, the dislike is centered on the hair, skin, stomach, or chest. Sometimes the flaws are minor or insignificant, while others time they are completely imagined altogether.

When suffering from BDD, an individual is unable to stop thinking about their flaws. They will continuously look at themselves or groom themselves to find assurance and solitude in their appearance. Some may also go as extreme as getting procedures done to enhance their appearance and rid themselves of the (perceived) flaws.

What Causes Body Dysmorphia?

Unfortunately, it is not known what causes BDD. While it commonly beings in the teenage years, there are some risk factors for individuals of any age. These risk factors include:

● A family history of BDD or other obsessive-compulsive disorders.

● Certain brain abnormalities.

● A direct result of negative experiences in regards to one’s looks, such as bullying.

● Disliking one’s appearance.

● Perfectionism.

● Pressure from society.

● Anxiety.

● Depression.

Why is Body Dysmorphia an Issue?

The biggest issue with body dysmorphia is that it causes a person to obsess over their appearance in a way that significantly interferes with a person’s daily life. They may spend an unprecedented amount of time looking in the mirror, grooming themselves, or doing some other type of compulsive behavior such as:

● Camouflaging their imperfections

● Comparing themselves to others

● Picking their skin

● Excessively exercising

● Seeking cosmetic surgery

People with BDD tend to have low self-esteem, which directly impacts their daily life as well. They may have a difficult time in social situations. Their work and school may suffer as they are so immensely focused on their appearance. This can lead to grades suffering and work performance lacking, which directly impacts their future.

As you might assume, the effects of BDD are so severe that they can impact one’s health. Depression and anxiety are common traits in those suffering from body dysmorphia. Without treatment, these thoughts and features can lead to more severe self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

What Are the Warning Signs of Body Dysmorphia?

Most everyone will have a concern about their appearance at one point or another. However, these concerns are typical. So how can you tell when someone is suffering from BDD, rather than just a common concern? Here are some of the top signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder.

● They are always comparing themselves to others.

● Excessively grooming, such as plucking or brushing their hair

● Changing clothes excessively

● Continuously applying makeup

● Picking at the skin excessively.

● Excessive tanning

● Spending hours a day focusing on their appearance.

● Performing repetitive assuring behaviors such as looking in the mirror

● Struggling to function in ordinary day-to-day situations

● Disgusted by their appearance

● Failing in work or school

● Avoiding social situations and isolating themselves

● Seeking cosmetic surgeries

● Excessively exercising

● Fear of being picked on due to their appearance

How to Address Body Dysmorphia

If you think someone you know is struggling with BDD, there are ways to help. Here are some helpful ways to address body dysmorphia:

● Steer the conversation away from appearance. Don’t be pessimistic about your flaws, though, as this negativity can be a trigger.

● Try to understand them. Never mock or make them feel uncomfortable about their struggle. This can lead to a significant spiral.

● Encourage them to take small steps forward. Always encourage and celebrate the smallest steps.

● Support them in therapy. Therapy is an excellent option for those struggling with BDD.

Encourage your friend to get professional help if they do not feel like they can do it independently. If you are struggling with body dysmorphia, the best thing to do is to get professional treatment. Through the therapeutic process, you will learn how to control your thoughts and be kinder to yourself. Have a sound support system around you at all times.

Final Thoughts

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health issue that causes one to obsess over their appearance in a way that can wreak havoc in one’s life, from social situations to work and school. However, it is completely possible to put an end to the downward spiral and lead a confident, happy life. Reach out for support and take the next steps to living a life you can love!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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