Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also known as Body Dysmorphia, affects more than 200,000 Americans a year. Body Dysmorphia is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by an obsessive focus on a perceived imperfection or flaw in appearance. This imperfection or flaw may be minor or even totally invisible to others, but a person with body dysmorphia may try many cosmetic procedures, exercise to excess, or even avoid social situations. The obsession with the perceived flaw can interfere with a person’s life.
Body Dysmorphia cannot be cured but it can be treated. Treatments can include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Body Dysmorphia typically begins during the teen years and can affect males and females. Males tend to obsess more that their body is too small or not muscular enough. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms of Body Dysmorphia include –
- Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
- Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
- Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
- Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
- Constantly comparing your appearance with others
- Always seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
- Having perfectionist tendencies
- Seeking frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Avoiding social situations
- Being so preoccupied with appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, school or other areas of functioning
If left untreated, Body Dysmorphia typically gets worse and can lead to severe depression and even suicidal thoughts in some individuals. Experts feel that there are probably many causes and combinations of causes of Body Dysmorphia but having a blood relative with the disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may cause someone to be more likely to suffer from Body Dysmorphia. A person’s environment can also contribute, especially if there are negative evaluations of personal appearance or child abuse or neglect. Childhood trauma and teasing tends to have occurred in the past of many people who have Body Dysmorphia as well.
It is important to seek help from a medical professional if you feel you may have Body Dysmorphia. Wanting to improve your appearance through cosmetic procedures available today is not the same thing as Body Dysmorphia and a good cosmetic surgeon will ask you many questions about why you want a certain procedure or what results you expect to make sure that you are mentally healthy and have realistic expectations. If it looks as if you may be suffering from Body Dysmorphia, the surgeon will refer you to someone qualified to help you.