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  • Writer's pictureAsia Hardin

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a body-image disorder characterized by a persistent and intrusive preoccupation with imagined or slight defects in one's own appearance. BDD is common in adolescents, and affects about 1 in every 50 people.

The disorder is even associated with significantly higlevels of suicidality, as people with BDD often also struggle with comorbidities like social anxiety disorder and depression.

If you experience BDD, that hypercritical voice is always there in the background worrying about how your body looks. And, when pervasive enough, that voice can affect your ability to function in everyday life.

That inner-critic doesn't always stay insider either. It's not uncommon for someone with BDD to negatively degrade their appearance in conversation with others. Maybe you've even noticed them double-checking their appearance a concerning number of times throughout the day.

Common Fixations:

  • Facial features (i.e., the nose)

  • Skin (moles, freckles, scars, acne)

  • Muscle size/tone

  • Size and shape of genitalia and/or breasts

  • Hair (including facial and body)

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder:

  • Repeatedly checking your reflection in the mirror, or avoiding mirrors altogether.

  • Isolating from others to avoid being seen. This includes avoiding school, work, social events, and public spaces.

  • Camouflaging or covering yourself up by wearing a lot of makeup, baggy clothing, or accessories such as hats to hide the perceived flaws.

  • Avoiding having your picture taken.

  • Getting/desiring cosmetic surgeries and procedures.

  • Compulsive skin picking.

  • Negatively comparing yourself to others.

  • Excessive exercising or tanning.

  • Overspending on personal grooming.

Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Treatment for BDD includes talk therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. Antidepressant medications like SSRI's are thought to help people obsess less over their physical appearance and the related distress.

Cognitive Bheavioral Therapy has been found to be the most effective type of therapy treatment for young people- helping them to to change the way they see their body, and learning to check reality and turn their focus away from the perceived flaws.

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