Is there something about your body you hate?
I hear so many women complain that they are overweight, that they have flab, there is something that they hate about their body, and no one else sees it except for them. This has a medical diagnosis and it is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). So many people suffer from this; you look at them and see a beautiful person, and they look in a mirror and see the most disgusting person ever, and it can become a total obsession, and run their lives. And these flaws that people see in themselves can be real OR totally imagined and people will many times seek treatments to change their appearance, and they will NEVER be satisfied with how they look. The good news? It is treatable with therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
How do I know if I have it?
- Constantly looking in the mirror and checking your appearance
- Embarrassment about how you look to the point that you avoid socializing
- Constantly comparing yourself to others, and finding flaws in yourself
- Thinking about your flaws at inappropriate times
- Seeking cosmetic procedures and treatments for flaws and never being happy with the results
- Believing that others notice your appearance in a negative way
- Needing reassurance about your looks frequently
- Extreme grooming
- Wearing excessive make-up, clothing changes frequently, to "hide" your flaws
*There is also a little self test that you can take online.
What are areas most obsessed with?
What causes BDD?
Culture: It can be culturally enhanced. For example, if you work in fashion, and you are working with women that are super thin and super beautiful, you can start to think that you are obese (even when being a perfect body weight) and think that you are ugly because you are surrounded by beautiful people that are not the norm. And if you are a male around these men with near perfect physiques, it can make you feel that your own body muscle composition is inadequate, but you are working with people who get paid to look good!
Brain Chemical Changes: Some of the neurotransmitters that change your mood, are suggested to play a role in BDD.
Genes: There are a few studies that have shown that family members of those with BDD are more likely to have it, which suggests that it can be a learned behavior (i.e. from parents to children).
Are there any risk factors?
Family members wit BDD
Having other psych disorders
So what is the big deal?
BDD can cause people to have life long obsessions that can cause a lack of intimacy in relationships (both physically and emotionally), cause eating disorders, addictions (drugs, food, etc), anxiety disorders, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). These anxiety disorders and depression can lead to suicidal actions, if the person goes without treatment or help. Plus, people can put themselves at risk for infection or death every time they have unnecessary cosmetic procedures and surgeries. And, it can cause issues with school or work because you are unable to focus on what you have to get done because you are so consumed with your "flaws"; that can have huge ramifications on your life, and all for something that can be treated.
What are the treatments?
Well, while there is no "drug" that is made for BDD, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, your HCP might choose to treat you for that, as an underlying condition, to help you get through day to day living while you undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy where you are taught healthy behaviors (social interactions, daily behaviors) and how to avoid obsessive ones (like checking the mirror, over grooming, comparing yourself to others). You learn about how you currently think, react, and live and learn ways to think differently so you are positive, instead of negative (i.e. looking for flaws) and how to handle your need to look in the mirror all the time, etc. CBT does take time and a lot of effort on your part, and you have to work with a therapist that you trust, and be totally invested in it, or it won't work for you.
Along with CBT, make sure that you are living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise which came make you feel better about yourself, and physical activity can keep your mind active and not thinking about the "flaws" that you are worried about. And, get yearly check ups with your HCP so that they can keep track of your progress, and so that they can help you to to give you a proper referral for a CBT therapist, and make sure that you are being healthy.
BDD is a disorder that so many people suffer silently with, and they think that it is normal, but but really isn't. Everyone has a day where they feel fat, or ugly, or wish they ad straighter teeth, better hair, more hair, better muscles, etc. but that is a passing thought on one day. If you obsess about these things daily, and think these thoughts numerous times a day, it's not OK and you need to talk to someone about it, preferably an HCP who can get you into the treatment that you need. You need to love yourself for everything amazing that you are, and you will find that you are so much happier with life and everything it has to offer!
Yours in Good Health