How do you know if you have body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a type of mental health problem. In this condition, you are usually distressed with imagined or minor defects in your appearance. All other causes of anxiety must be ruled out to diagnose body dysmorphia.
In this disease, you are always preoccupied with how you look. You have an intense concern about not looking good or having a flawed appearance. This concern often interferes with your everyday tasks. Maybe you can’t concentrate on your jobs or studies because you are afraid of being judged for your looks and appearances. Body dysmorphia can affect anyone. It typically begins during the teenage years or early adulthood. Untreated body dysmorphia can worsen with age, so timely treatment is important.
Some of the signs of body dysmorphia include
- Difficulty in controlling negative thoughts about your appearance.
- Overwhelming concern about a “flaw” in your appearance that others may not even notice. This may be a minor or an inexistent flaw.
- Always counting calories as you eat and trying to lose weight.
- Binge eating secretly and then inducing vomiting out of guilt.
- You may spend hours every day worrying about the way you look.
- Perceiving yourself as “ugly” or “unworthy” because of your appearance.
- Avoiding socializing because of the fear of being disliked for your looks.
- Missing work or school because you are worried about your looks.
- Planning to “improve” your looks. This may be by using a harmful beauty product or undergoing multiple surgeries for cosmetic improvement.
- Developing harmful thoughts, including depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies, because of your appearance.
- Repeatedly looking at yourself in the mirror or avoiding the mirror altogether because it distresses you.
- Repeatedly seeking reassurance from your friends or family to know if you look good.
- Comparing yourself negatively with other people or your old pictures to the extent that it makes you anxious or depressed.
What causes body dysmorphia?
Research studies are still underway to know the exact causes of body dysmorphia. According to the studies done so far, body dysmorphia may occur because of the following factors
- Genes: Body dysmorphic disorders may run in some families.
- Low serotonin levels: Serotonin is the key hormone that elevates your mood and gives a sense of wellbeing. Low serotonin levels in some people may cause body dysmorphia.
- Psychosocial factors: Some people may develop dysmorphia in response to excessive bullying, teasing or criticism that they are subjected to.
Studies have also revealed that some differences in the structure and activity of the brain may also cause body dysmorphia.
How is body dysmorphia treated?
Body dysmorphia is treated by a mental health professional. The treatment may consist of
- Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT: This type of counseling helps correct your thoughts and behavior about yourself.
- Exposure and response prevention or ERP: ERP uses thoughts and real-life situations to make you understand that your negative views about your appearance are incorrect.
- Medications: These include medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Whatever may be the therapy approach, the support of caregivers (including family and friends) is pivotal for recovery from body dysmorphia.
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