What Is Body Dysmorphia?
Just about everyone can think of at least one aspect of their appearance that they would like to change, whether it’s their nose, hair, stomach, build, height, skin, or something else. And although they may fret about their “imperfection” from time to time, their dissatisfaction generally dissipates quickly, and they move on. Their unhappiness is fleeting and doesn’t interfere with their daily life.
Body dysmorphic disorder is similar but much more serious. It is a mental health condition that grossly distorts an affected individual’s perception of their appearance. Much like obsessive-compulsive disorder, it leads to an obsessive focus on an imagined or insignificant physical flaw. The preoccupation is persistent, intrusive, and overwhelming. It causes the individual to spend hours trying to fix the flaw and interferes with their ability to function.
What Are the Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder can affect people of all ages and genders; however, it is most frequently diagnosed in adolescents and teens. Some common signs include:
- Frequently looking in a mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether
- Constantly comparing one’s self to others
- Constantly asking other people how one looks, and not believing them when they say “fine”
- Trying to conceal the perceived flaw under clothing, a hat, a scarf, or makeup
- Picking at the skin with fingers or tweezers
- Exercising to excess
- Having unnecessary cosmetic procedures
- Avoiding social situations
- Avoiding photographs
- Rarely leaving the house
- Feeling anxious, depressed, or ashamed
- Having suicidal thoughts
What Causes Body Dysmorphia?
The causes of body dysmorphic disorder are not yet fully understood. Some experts believe the condition may be triggered by a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors, such as:
- A family history of body dysmorphia or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Low levels of serotonin (the body’s natural “feel good” hormone) in the brain
- Certain personality traits, such as a tendency to be overly sensitive, insecure, introverted, or a perfectionist
- Certain life experiences, such as bullying and teasing, that fostered feelings of shame and inadequacy or fear of ridicule
How Is Body Dysmorphia Treated?
Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder can be challenging because the condition is often related to deeply rooted issues that must be identified and addressed before healing can occur. Many patients benefit from a combination of antidepressant medication, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The goal of CBT is to improve the patient’s quality of life not by changing the circumstances in which they live but by helping them take control of their perception of those circumstances.
If you have body dysmorphic disorder, you can find the professional help you need at Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, FL. We specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment, which includes identifying and treating all concurrent conditions. With our expert guidance, you can learn to accept yourself as you are and treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Contact us today to learn more.