Body dysmorphic disorder, also called body dysmorphia and abbreviated as BDD, is a common mental illness characterised by a sense of undue worry over the ostensible and apparent faults in one’s physical appearance. The actual defect is more often than not a very minor imperfection such as the shape of the nose in teenagers, young adults, the size of the breasts in women or the penis in men, but the affected individual feels rather insecure and embarrassed, even evading social interactions with friends and colleagues due to these factors.
A person with body dysmorphic disorder often analyses their looks and external bodily features in the mirror, sometimes spending huge amounts of time doing so and not focusing on important tasks at work or essential chores at home. They are constantly unsatisfied with their physical appearance and incessantly pursue their friends, family members or colleagues for assuring words to comfort themselves. This in turn triggers a lot of anxiety and turmoil in their minds, invariably hampering their productivity in the office and stalling domestic activities in the household.
While in most cases, body dysmorphic disorder does not result in serious complications, at times, the individual may encounter suicidal tendencies or the inclination to frequently drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or even slip into drug addiction. Hence, it is imperative to identify the signs of body dysmorphia in people of all age groups at the earliest and seek medical help from a mental health professional, to ensure timely treatment, full recovery from the odd symptoms and be more productive in life.
Causes Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder:
The precise cause of body dysmorphic disorder is yet to be determined. However, doctors and healthcare experts have established that certain aspects contribute vastly to triggering this mental disorder. These comprise:
- Having a family history of BDD
- Irregularities in nerve signalling and brain functions
- Low self-esteem about one’s physical appearance
- Hearing negative comments from others continuously such as bullying, teasing in childhood
- Pre-existing mental ailments like obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Showcasing specific personality traits like being a perfectionist
- The popular perception of beauty standards according to society, such as a fair complexion, straight nose, tall slender physique etc.
The distinguishing indications of body dysmorphic disorder consist of:
- Persistently noticing one’s external appearance and worrying about the small flaws
- Imagining slight imperfections to be major distorted features and convincing oneself that it makes them look ugly and unappealing
- Trying to rectify these seemingly huge defects often, by frequently checking one’s reflection in the mirror, grooming very often like combing one’s hair or touching up one’s makeup, poking on the areas of skin with acne, dark spots
- Staying away from social gatherings like parties with friends, family, colleagues for fear of being mocked about these shortcomings in their appearance
- Always comparing one’s appearance with that of other and exaggerating even the slight flaws
People with BDD possess a preoccupation with numerous external defects such as:
- Shape and size of the nose
- Blemishes on the face including acne, dark spots, wrinkles
- Size of the breast being rather small in women
- Skin complexion being too tan or dark
- Penis size being smaller than average in men
- Prominent outline of veins or scars from injuries on the skin
- Not being very muscular or having a six-pack in men
The doctor does a thorough physical examination of the patient to rule out the possibility of any other chronic condition and then advises them to consult with a mental health expert. A team of professionals encompassing psychiatrists, counsellors, psychologists then evaluates the symptoms exhibited and reported by the patient.
They enquire about any close family members with BDD and also ascertain the negative thoughts, risk factors and typical traits displayed by the patient with regards to their looks and physical appearance.
Once the diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder is confirmed, then the mental health professional recommends an appropriate treatment strategy to help the patient overcome the perceived negative image of their face, body. This includes behavioural therapy sessions and prescription medications to alleviate symptoms of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.
During the counselling guidance, the psychologist teaches effective methods to help the patient reduce their frequent mirror-gazing and grooming habits, encourages them to participate in social events with friends, family, colleagues. They also impart techniques to the patient to aid in altering their negative thinking and develop a positive mindset towards their own physical appearance, to ensure complete recovery of BDD symptoms and significantly improve productivity in life.