Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition in which people fixate on what they perceive to be flaws in their physical appearance. In reality, these “flaws” are nonexistent or unnoticeable to others. This warped self-perception is the core of BDD.  

BDD has connections to other disorders

In most cases, people with BDD also have a coexisting anxiety issue, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder and depression have all been linked to BDD. This is because they actually share some overlapping symptoms. For instance, the intrusive thoughts and repetitive, compulsive behaviors associated with OCD are also common among people with BDD. In much the same way that people with social anxiety disorder avoid social situations, people with BDD typically have difficulties socializing normally. Because of this, the ADAA says that body dysmorphic disorder is often misdiagnosed. Symptoms of BDD include a desire to stay home or avoid social situations, camouflaging the body through body positioning, clothes or makeup, seeking cosmetic surgery, frequently checking or avoiding mirrors, and extreme exercise or grooming.

Causes and Treatment for BDD

At this point, experts aren’t sure what causes BDD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, issues with neurotransmitters may be at play, although this hasn’t been confirmed. Others believe that low self-esteem brought on by social or cultural pressure could be a contributing factor, as well. A traumatic experience might also contribute to BDD. In terms of treatment, every case of BDD is different and requires an individualized approach. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients become more aware of negative thoughts that feed body image issues and low self-esteem. This approach also teaches them how to replace harmful habits and rituals with healthy ones. Medications like antidepressants may also be used. In extreme cases where a person becomes a threat to himself/herself, psychiatric hospitalization may be necessary.

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