Body dysmorphic disorder.. What is it?

Disclaimer. This article is not a rubric for diagnosis, so please seek medical advice or attention. 

Trigger warning. This article may deal with sensitive topics surrounding ED and may be triggering. 

Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition where your brain cannot stop fixating on a perceived flaw or defect in your appearance. These flaws are not noticeable to others, but to you, they are. Your perception of your flaws may cause you to feel embarrassed or anxious in social situations. 

The DSM-5 classified body dysmorphia under obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. The criteria for this condition 

Body dysmorphia can feel like looking at yourself through a funhouse mirror. What you see is vastly different from what others see. Body dysmorphia makes you focus only on the defects. You may develop anxiety over how you look. As a result, you develop habits, such as repetitive grooming or checking yourself in a mirror.  

These habits can be disruptive to your everyday life, and thus emotionally distressing. These habits can be particularly stressful because you find it hard to control your negative perceptions about your body. But, they exist as coping mechanisms and forms of reassurance. However, they are not enough to change your mind about how you look. 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, some common symptoms of body dysmorphia are:

  • avoiding mirrors,
  • constantly exercising or grooming,
  • frequent weighing,
  • fixating on a body part in the mirror,
  • picking or pinching your body,
  • attempting to hide parts of your body, or
  • avoiding social activities

But, there are other psychological and emotional symptoms of body dysmorphia. 

Body dysmorphia gaslights you into thinking there is something wrong with you even though you know there isn’t anything wrong with you. 

It tricks you into believing that others can see your “flaws.” Consequently, you may fall into self-destructive behaviors such as purging, restrictive dieting, binge-eating, and over-exercising. 

In your desire to fix yourself, you may pay for unnecessary surgeries–putting your health at risk. 

Body dysmorphia can affect anyone, regardless of gender.  

There are no specific causes for body dysmorphia. But, doctors believe that three are several factors: one’s medical history, brain chemistry, personality type, or life experiences. 

Body dysmorphia can alienate you from your body, but it does not need to be a persistent condition. It can be managed. Talk therapy and CBT are the most common forms of treatment but reach out to a mental health professional for more treatment options. 

Please reach out to a medical health professional for more guidance and assistance. 

I wish you the best of luck on your mental health journey and hope that you can allow yourself to heal. 

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2021). Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD): Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/body-dysmorphic-disorder 

Better Health Channel. (2022). Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – Better Health Channel. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd 

Bjornsson, A. S., Didie, E. R., & Phillips, K. A. (2010). Body dysmorphic disorder. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience12(2), 221–232. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2010.12.2/abjornsson

Cleveland Clinic Medical Staff. (2020, October 14). Body dysmorphic disorder: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatments. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9888-body-dysmorphic-disorder 

John Hopkins. (2021). Body dysmorphic disorder. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/body-dysmorphic-disorder 

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