Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is described as a psychiatric disorder which causes a preoccupation with an imagined physical appearance or an obsessive and exaggerated concern about a minimal defect. It is more common in people with a history of depression or social phobia. This preoccupation normally causes impairment in one’s social or occupational functioning making the person to go into total isolation. Persons with the disorder can go to great cosmetic lengths to improve and fix the perceived flaws in their physical appearance but no matter how much that is done they are never satisfied. It is sometimes referred to as ‘imagined ugliness’.


Body Dysmorphia has been closely related to other conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Other distinctive symptoms of BDD symptoms include the person being anxious when in the presence of other people, constant seeking of medical treatment for the imaginary flaw, touching, palpating, measuring and frequent mirror monitoring of the perceived defect, excessive wearing of make up to hide the imaginary defect and excessive exercising and dieting. However physical and laboratory tests together with psychological evaluation should be done by medical experts to make a correct BDD diagnosis.


The person may also avoid reflective surfaces and pick on the skin. Parts of the body are mostly seen to be the problem areas include the muscle size, moles or freckles, hair, nose, breasts, baldness and the genetalia. Focus may change from one body part to the other and no amount of convincing will make the person think otherwise of the perceived defect.


Statistics show that one to two per cent of the world's population meets all the diagnostic criteria for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In most cases, BDD starts in the adolescent age and in early adulthood when people are most sensitive about their appearance and advance on. The cause of BDD is still not clear but scientists identify some risk factors that my result to the development of the disorder as low self esteem, childhood negative teasing, having biological relatives with the condition, physical or sexual abuse and societal pressure on beauty.


Body Dysmorphia is known to cause a number of complications including depression and other mood disorders, substance abuse, social phobia or isolation, eating disorders, anxiety, unnecessary medical procedures and suicidal thoughts, attempts or behavior. BDD treatment is often successful but can take long if the person is not willing to undertake the treatment. There are two treatments for the order namely medications and physiotherapy. Cosmetic surgery is not a treatment option because the patient does not get satisfied after a correctional surgery.


Coping with BDD is quite challenging, patients are therefore advised to avoid isolation as much as possible, eat a healthy diet, get sufficient sleep ,consider writing a journal to express emotions, read inspirational books, join support groups, relax and manage stress and keep a sober head in all decisions made. Physical activity and exercise is a perfect remedy to manage many symptoms including stress, anxiety and depression. People are therefore advised to engage in the exercises or sport they love to preoccupy themselves.


If you, or someone you know, are struggling with Body Dysmorphia Disorder it is highly recommended that you seek professional help and advice. Since this disorder is often associated with other psychiatric disorders, a doctor or other mental health professional is the best place to seek help when deciding upon the right way to treat this condition.