What exactly does it mean to have body dysmorphia? Also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), this a condition where someone is excessively concerned with perceived flaws in their physical appearance, to the point that it negatively affects their life. BDD can cause intense shame, anxiety and distress and even lead to self-harming and suicidal thoughts.
If you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), it’s likely you worry about more than one aspect of your looks and spend a lot of time comparing your appearance to others. Most commonly, people with body dysmorphia are focused on facial features, such as their nose, skin and teeth, but any part of the body can become a concern.
It may be that you don’t fret about a specific feature, but believe you are just ugly or ‘wrong’ looking generally, or that you look too feminine or masculine.
Other signs of body dysmorphia are particular, repetitive behaviours, such as covering your ‘flaw’ with make up or clothing, or excessive grooming in the hope of ‘correcting’ your appearance. This includes potentially harming yourself, by picking at your skin for example. You may be someone who stares at yourself in the mirror constantly, or avoids mirrors altogether, because you can’t bear to see yourself. Seeking reassurance from others is also a common sign of BDD.
It’s not always easy to get a diagnosis of body dysmorphia, as the symptoms can appear similar to other mind health problems, such as anxiety or eating disorders.
It seems most people affected by body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are teenagers and young adults, both male and female. But it’s not known what causes BDD. As with many health conditions, it’s thought that genetics may play a part; you’re more likely to develop the condition if you have relative with BDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression. Childhood trauma – being bullied or abused – could also make you more susceptible.
Having body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can affect every aspect of your life, from family relationships and work to your social life. If you’re struggling with body dysmorphia, you may find it difficult to be around other people, as you try to hide your appearance from them.
Friends and family may try to reassure you that your view of yourself is not how you really look, or how they see you. But when you have BDD that’s unlikely to be enough to allay your fears. It’s important to get help, as your symptoms of body dysmorphia can get better with the right treatment.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is the recommended treatment for body dysmorphia for anyone with mild symptoms. This kind of ‘talking therapy’ has been shown to be one of the most effective approaches. You can practise CBT with the help of a trained therapist or counsellor, or start with an online self-help course. CBT will help you learn what triggers your body dysmorphic disorder symptoms and develop different ways to think about and manage your habits.
If your symptoms are considered more severe, you may also need to take an antidepressant. You may find it helpful to join a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) support group too.