This article on Body Dysmorphia is meant to be a source of valuable information for the reader; however, it is not a substitute for direct expert assistance. Seek help from a mental health professional if you’re experiencing a severe case of this condition.
Whenever you look at yourself in the mirror, do you tend to focus on the good or bad side of yourself? Perhaps it’s interchangeable depending on the day, but sometimes we may get too fixated on our flaws. And with flaws, they become insecurities. Although most of the time we’d shrug them off seconds later, some can be hard to get over. To the point they can control our actions and switch the way we view and think of ourselves; in a detrimental way.
If you’ve felt this way, you may have Body Dysmorphia.
Uncover more about this obsessive disorder and how it’s more than just the average insecurities.
What is Body Dysmorphia?
According to WebMD, they defined Body Dysmorphia as:
“a distinct mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see.”
Because of this, it leads to them constantly perceiving themselves as ugly. It can go hours, months, and even years looking at themselves and pointing out what’s “wrong” with them. It’s also known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a chronic disorder that affects everyone. You can also get affected by this disorder while having other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.
It can start as early as your teenage years onwards, wherein we begin to compare and contrast other people and complain over what we lack. Based on a study by the American Psychiatric Association (ADAA), BDD occurs in about 2.5% of males and 2.2 % of females, starting from adolescents aged 12-13 years old.
How Does Body Dysmorphia Affect Someone?
Body Dysmorphia not only affects someone’s mental health, but one’s overall lifestyle. And how, you might ask? Browse through this section to find out more.
1 They never feel satisfied with their looks.
Body Dysmorphia warps how you view yourself, starting from the tiny details about yourself. One day, it can be how your hair is styled the moment you woke. The next can be the random pimple popping out of nowhere on your cheek. No matter how much effort you put into dressing up or beautifying yourself, something will always tick you off.
2 They ponder their “flaws” for long periods of time.
As humans, we may focus on what we lack rather than what we already have. This may be because if we get them, we’ll be happier. We want to be validated by others first before we accept ourselves. However, the more we think this way, the more unhappiness we invite into our life. And if there’s no way we can fix what we lack, it’ll keep haunting us and disrupting our life.
Body Dysmorphia advocates chaos in our brain into thinking that our flaws make us less of a person, undeserving of love especially when the public catches on to them. Our life becomes a mess that can’t be simply cleaned up in one go.
3 You can’t focus on work or school.
Body Dysmorphia enjoys meddling with your mind with self-deprecating thoughts about yourself. Because of this, it’ll revert all your focus to your looks rather than your workload. No matter how many times you try to devote time to finish your tasks or learn a new lesson, it takes one evil thought about yourself to be planted internally to create havoc. And a pile of backlogs to heighten.
4 Insecurities build over time.
Body Dysmorphia is more than feeling insecure every now and then, only to pass. They’ll intensify those insecurities whenever you pass by a mirror or even hide from it. It’ll even bring you to the point that you fear stepping outside the house, where others can see you. From this, you’ll feel like you’re never good enough for anyone or, most importantly, yourself.
5 Your relationships with other people get affected.
Body Dysmorphia pushes you away from other people because of those developed insecurities preoccupying your attention. Their energy is drained, and their fear increases. Even if their close companions reassure them, they’ll never feel okay in their own skin. Thus, they’ll choose to be alone and miss out on spending time with them, no matter how much they miss them.
Areas of Concern for Body Dysmorphia
Being preoccupied with certain aspects of your body can be stressful. And even if you want to ignore those thoughts, they keep lingering in your head. With that being said, some areas of concern where body dysmorphia is involved include:
- Hair: facial, body, or being bald
- Body appearance
- Skin imperfections: acne, scars, wrinkles
- Facial features
- Size of genitalia
Causes of Body Dysmorphia
Based on WebMD, there is no exact cause behind this mental disorder. Although there’s one theory that suggests the disorder involves a problem with the size or functioning of certain brain areas in charge of processing information about body appearance. It makes sense when other mental health disorders are present within those who have BDD.
Prevalent causes of this disorder include:
- Parental standards toward appearance
- Childhood trauma
- Peer and societal pressure
- Low-self esteem
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia
People with Body Dysmorphia have distorted, inaccurate images of themselves, distancing from others out of fear being one of the results of such. But this result is only the tip of the iceberg; discover more symptoms of this disorder as warning signs to look out for.
1 You have an extreme focus on your appearance.
Body Dysmorphia will have you constantly moving and grinding extra like no other. You’d change outfits so many times before heading out or place more makeup to camouflage the flaw for anyone to see. Sometimes, you won’t even consider the weather of the day. Perhaps If you have to wear long sleeves during the summer to hide your chubby arms, you’ll do it. Overall, this can be very time-consuming.
2 You’re always asking others about your looks.
For sure, you’d ask about it when you’re out and about with your friends. It always helps to have a second opinion. However, there’s a limit to this. Someone with Body Dysmorphia would go beyond it; to the point their peers get exhausted by the redundant questions. They may even feel concerned when that person constantly worries about their presentation wherever they go.
3 You either obsess or divert away from the mirror.
Looking at the mirror for one final check before heading out is one thing. But to almost be glued to any reflective surface to inspect your “defects” is another. You’re driven to repeatedly check yourself out whenever you can so no one can catch your “flaws”. On the opposite hand, you could be the type to avoid any chance to check yourself out in the mirror. You’d rather save yourself from the change in mood.
4 You feel upset about your physique.
With Body Dysmorphia, negative emotions flood over you when you think or see your figure. Even if the “defect” isn’t obvious or big, Body Dysmorphia shapes it to be monstrous. You’ll always be too focused on viewing your “defects” that anything else more important around you, leaving you unsatisfied and constantly in bad graces with yourself. You may even refuse to get your picture taken because you’re not pleased with the printed frame.
5 You isolate yourself from seeing other people.
To further hide your “flaws” from everyone, you’d refuse any offer to hang out or spend time with them. Examples include avoiding work, school, or public gatherings, which brings more stress to your circle. Perhaps you’ll find it more comforting to step outside at night, when everyone is unwinding at home, or during periods of time when fewer people are likely to step outside.
6 You’re constantly getting plastic surgery to “fix the defects”.
At some point in our lives, we came across the belief that plastic surgery is the answer to all our body-related problems. With Body Dysmorphia, that’s a constant case. Having a disorder like that leaves you desperate, craving to be accepted or loved only when your “defects” are gone. With that, there’s no limit as long you get them fixed. That also includes your wallet to fund them! Yet you’ll always find something wrong again, making you unhappy and eager to do more.
Complications Linked With Body Dysmorphia
Several serious complications can occur when you’re diagnosed with Body Dysmorphia. As mentioned earlier, it’s more than feeling insecure when you look at yourself in the mirror. It can creep deeper into affecting your mental health and putting so much at risk.
Complications that are at risk of happening include:
- Depression and/or Anxiety
- Social isolation
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Stronger need for plastic surgery
- Suicidal thoughts
Body Dysmorphia may be difficult to diagnose because people feel secretive or ashamed of their feelings. Some can even hide it through constant plastic surgeries. However, situations like this don’t mean it’s impossible to catch them.
In fact, it’s better to diagnose it early on before it worsens. In order to know if you have this disorder, you’ll take a physical exam (like the annual one you take for school or work), then be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
They’ll evaluate you based on the following:
- Any repetitive actions they observe you doing (brushing your hair, looking at the mirror to check your appearance)
- How preoccupied you are with your “flaws”
- Your difficulty functioning at work or living your life because of your looks
For every disorder or illness, there’s always a way to treat or at least lessen the pain of it. Take a glimpse of impactful means of treatment for those struggling with Body Dysmorphia.
Medical professionals can prescribe antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This specific medication can take up to 12 weeks for any effect to occur toward your symptoms of Body Dysmorphia. Those below 30 must be closely monitored during the first few weeks of taking these antidepressants. Be mindful also of the side effects here.
This kind of therapy involves individual counseling, which reshapes your thinking and behavior toward the “defect”. At the same time, the medical professional involved aims for you to lessen your compulsive actions. You can also refer to this as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
3 Group Therapy
It helps to be surrounded by people who genuinely care for you to get better. A common kind of group therapy is family therapy, eager to understand what you’re going through and how they can help out in their own ways while you get to be transparent with what you’re feeling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still curious to learn more about Body Dysmorphia? We answered a few common queries on this mental disorder to keep your intrigue running.
1 Are there similarities between Body Dysmorphia and eating disorders?
They’re similar in the sense wherein you feel worried or anxious about your body image. The deal breaker would be that with Body Dysmorphia, you’re centered on a specific body part, while eating disorders overlook the entire figure.
2 Do Body Dysmorphia and OCD share any similarities?
The two disorders come up during one’s adolescent years through compulsive behaviors linked to their appearances, like repeatedly peeking at the mirror and skin-picking.
3 Is Muscle Dysmorphia a subtype of Body Dysmorphia?
Yes, Muscle Dysmorphia is a subtype of body dysmorphia rooted in the idea that your muscles aren’t large enough. It’s mostly common among men.
4 Can I get Body Dysmorphia through genetics?
Yes. If you have a relative with either Body Dysmorphia, (OCD), or depression, you’re likely to get it.
5 Do Body Dysmorphia and OCD share any similarities?
There’s no tangible way to prevent ourselves from getting Body Dysmorphia. But hopefully, through this guide, where we shared the warning signs and medication options of this disorder, we can instantly help someone identify symptoms early on. Then as for diagnosed with it, we can give them all the support they need.
Body Dysmorphia can destroy how we view ourselves in such drastic ways. We become obsessed over the smallest details about ourselves and let them determine our worth. Because of this, it can be difficult to regain good overall health and confidence again. So even if it’s challenging to catch on to it, deciding to seek treatment is a lot better than leaving it as it is. It’ll be a day-by-day healing process, making life a lot easier and happier to live in. Don’t let it win over you.