Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
Mental Health

Let’s Talk Body Dysmorphic Disorder. It’s Causes, How to Cope and More.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental problem that makes a person worry a lot about their appearance. They think they have flaws that are not there or not noticeable, but they feel ugly or deformed. They may waste a lot of time trying to hide or fix their appearance, and feel very unhappy, anxious, depressed, and unable to do things.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Concept. Can you see how she stands in front of the mirror and sees herself differently?

BDD can happen to anyone, no matter how old, what gender, or what culture they are. About 1-2% of people have BDD, but maybe more, because many people with BDD do not get help or tell anyone. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)can also happen with other mental problems, such as Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, depression, eating problems, or drug problems.

What Causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

The causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mix of different factors that researchers don’t know. Some of these factors are:

  • Genetics: BDD may be passed down in families, meaning that some people may be born with a higher chance of getting BDD or similar problems.
  • Brain structure and function: BDD may be linked to problems in some parts of the brain that help us see, feel, and think. People with BDD may see or think about their appearance in a wrong or extreme way and have trouble managing their bad feelings and thoughts.
  • Personality traits: BDD may be more common in people who have low self-esteem, perfectionism, or sensitivity to criticism. People with BDD may also have been bullied, teased, or abused for how they look or for other reasons, which may affect how they feel about themselves and their worth.
  • Cultural influences: BDD may be affected by the pressure from society and media to look a certain way, or to be attractive or successful. People with BDD may feel bad when they compare themselves to others and feel that they do not fit in with the images they see in magazines, movies, or social media.

What are the symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can show up differently for different people and how bad it is. Some usual signs and symptoms of BDD are:

  • Worrying a lot about one or more parts of their body that they think are flawed, such as their skin, hair, nose, eyes, lips, teeth, breasts, genitals, or muscles. They may think that these parts are too big, too small, too crooked, too uneven, too wrinkled, too scarred, or not normal. They may also think that these parts do not fit well with the rest of their body.
  • Doing many things to check, hide, or change how they look, such as:
    • Looking at themselves in the mirror a lot, for a long time, or from different angles, to check or judge their flaws. Or avoiding mirrors completely, or covering them up, to not see themselves.
    • Wearing clothes, makeup, hats, sunglasses, hair styles, or accessories to cover up or change their flaws. Or changing how they stand, smile, or move to hide their parts.
    • Asking others for opinions or compliments on how they look, or looking for approval from online sources, such as social media, forums, or rating websites. Or trying to get compliments, or negative comments, to test or challenge what they think about how they look.
    • Comparing how they look to others, either in real life or in media, and feeling worse or better based on how similar or different they are. Or feeling jealous or angry at others for how they look, or thinking that others are making fun of or judging them for how they look.
    • Spending a lot of time and money on making themselves look better, such as shaving, plucking, waxing, styling, coloring, or using products on their hair, skin, nails, or teeth. Or getting cosmetic procedures, such as surgery, injections, or implants, to change how they look, often with bad or harmful results.
  • Staying away from situations or activities that may show or draw attention to their flaws, such as social events, dating, work, school, sports, or hobbies. Or keeping away from others, or only talking to certain people or going to certain places, to feel less worried or embarrassed.
  • Feeling very bad emotions, such as shame, guilt, sadness, anger, or disgust, about how they look. They may also have low self-esteem, poor body image, or suicidal thoughts or actions. Their worrying and doing may stop them from doing things in their personal, social, academic, or work life, and affect their happiness and health.

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Diagnosed?

Many people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) do not get help or tell anyone because they feel ashamed or embarrassed. BDD can also look like other mental problems, such as OCD, social anxiety, depression, or eating problems, or like normal worries about how they look. So, talk to a mental health expert, like a psychologist or psychiatrist, who can check them well and tell them if they have BDD.

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Treated?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is treated with therapy and medicine. The best therapy for BDD is CBT, which helps the person change their wrong thoughts and beliefs about their appearance, and their unhealthy behaviors and coping ways. CBT may also have ERP, which makes the person face their feared or avoided situations or things related to appearance and stop doing their compulsive actions or rituals. CBT can be done alone, in groups, or online, depending on what the person wants and can do.

The most common medicine for BDD is SSRIs, which are antidepressants that help lower the anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms of BDD. SSRIs may take some time to work, and may have some side effects, such as nausea, headache, insomnia, or sexual problems. So, it is important to do what the doctor says and check how the medicine affects the person.

How to Cope with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Besides getting professional help, you can also use some self-help strategies to deal with your Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and improve your life. Some of these strategies are:

  • Educate yourself: Learn more about BDD, what causes it, how it affects you, and how to treat it. This can help you understand your problem better, and feel less ashamed or alone. You can also find good sources of information, such as books, websites, podcasts, or videos, that can give you helpful tips and advice on how to handle your BDD.
  • Seek support: Reach out to others who can give you emotional, practical, or social support, such as family, friends, or peers. They can help you cope with your BDD and feel less lonely or isolated. You can also join a support group, either in person or online, where you can share your experiences, feelings, and challenges with other people who have BDD or similar problems, and get mutual encouragement and feedback.
  • Practice self-care: Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, to cope with your BDD and feel better. You can practice self-care by:
    • Eating well and avoiding unhealthy eating habits
    • Sleeping well and having a regular and consistent sleep schedule
    • Doing physical activity that you like and that fits your fitness level, and avoiding too much or compulsive exercise
    • Relaxing and managing your stress, by using techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness
    • Doing your interests and hobbies, and finding activities that make you happy, satisfied, or meaningful
    • Expressing your creativity, by using outlets such as writing, drawing, painting, or music
    • Developing your skills and talents, by learning something new, taking a course, or volunteering for a cause
    • Celebrating your achievements and strengths, and acknowledging your progress and efforts
  • Challenge your thoughts: Challenge your wrong and negative thoughts and beliefs about your appearance, to cope with your BDD and improve your self-image. You can challenge your thoughts by:
    • Identifying what triggers and patterns your thoughts, such as situations, people, or images that make you feel insecure or unhappy with your appearance
    • Writing down your thoughts and the evidence for and against them, and evaluating how true, logical, or useful they are
    • Replacing your thoughts with more balanced, positive, or kind ones, that recognize your strengths, qualities, and uniqueness
    • Testing your thoughts by doing experiments, such as facing your feared or avoided situations or things related to appearance, and seeing what actually happens or how people react
    • Seeking feedback from others who can give you honest, constructive, or supportive views on your appearance
  • Reduce your behaviors: Reduce your compulsive or avoidant behaviors related to your appearance, to cope with your BDD and break the cycle that keeps your problem going. You can reduce your behaviors by:
    • Monitoring and recording your behaviors and the results of them, such as the time, frequency, duration, intensity, and triggers of your behaviors, and the emotions, thoughts, and outcomes that follow them
    • Setting realistic and gradual goals to decrease or stop your behaviors, such as limiting how much, how long, or how often you check, hide, seek reassurance, compare, groom, or avoid your appearance
    • Doing different or healthy behaviors that can distract you from your appearance-related worries, such as doing hobbies, interests, or activities that you enjoy or value, or practicing relaxation or coping skills that can calm you down or boost your mood
    • Rewarding yourself for your achievements and efforts, and celebrating your progress and success

The Key Takeaway.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental problem that makes a person worry a lot about their appearance. They think they have flaws that are not there or not noticeable, but they feel ugly or deformed. They may waste a lot of time trying to hide or fix their appearance, and feel very unhappy, anxious, depressed, and unable to do things.

BDD can be treated with therapy and medicine. There are also things you can do by yourself to deal with your BDD and improve your life. If you or someone you know has BDD, please get help and support. You are not alone, and you can feel good about yourself and your body.

FAQs on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

How can I help someone who has Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Be nice, understand, and support them. Tell them to get help and go with them if they need. Don’t say or do anything bad or funny about how they look or ignore or laugh at their worries. Focus on their good things and what they do well and remind them that you care about them as a person, not as a look.

Can children and adolescents have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Yes, they can have BDD, but it may be hard to see or know in them. BDD usually starts when they are teens, when their body changes and their friends matter more. Children and teens with BDD may do things like stay away from school, friends, or fun, look at themselves a lot in the mirror, wear too much or wrong clothes or makeup, be sad or mad about how they look, or want to change how they look with surgery. If you think your child or teen has BDD, talk to a mental health person who works with young people.

Can Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) be cured?

There is no cure for BDD, but it can be treated and managed with help and things you can do by yourself. Treatment of BDD usually has therapy and medicine, which can help with the symptoms and how they live. Therapy, like CBT, can help them change their wrong thoughts and beliefs about how they look, and their bad behaviors and ways to cope. Medicine, like SSRIs, can help with the anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms of BDD. Things you can do by yourself, like learning more about BDD, getting support, taking care of yourself, challenging your thoughts, and reducing your behaviors, can also help them deal with their BDD and feel better.

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) different from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

BDD and OCD are both obsessive-compulsive and related problems, which means that they have some things in common, like having bad and repeated thoughts (obsessions) and doing certain things or rules (compulsions) to feel less bad from the thoughts. But BDD and OCD are also different in some ways, like:

  • The thing of the thoughts: In BDD, the thoughts are about how they look or think they are flawed, while in OCD, the thoughts can be about different things, like dirt, harm, order, morality, or religion.
  • The kind of the things or rules: In BDD, the things or rules are mostly about how they look, like checking, hiding, getting opinions, comparing, making themselves look better, or staying away, while in OCD, the things or rules can be more different, like washing, cleaning, counting, arranging, praying, or saying sorry.
  • The knowing of the problem: In BDD, the person may not know that their beliefs about how they look are wrong, or doubt that they have a mental problem, while in OCD, the person usually knows that their thoughts and things or rules are too much or not right, or that they have a mental problem.

What are the risk factors for getting Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

The causes of BDD are not known, but researchers think that it is from a mix of different factors. Some factors that may make it more likely to get BDD are:

  • Genetics: BDD may be in families, meaning that some people may be born with more chance of getting BDD or similar problems.
  • Brain structure and function: BDD may be from problems in some parts of the brain that help us see, feel, and think. People with BDD may see or think about how they look in a wrong or extreme way, and have trouble with their bad feelings and thoughts.
  • Personality traits: BDD may be more in people who have low self-esteem, perfectionism, or sensitivity to criticism. People with BDD may also have been bullied, teased, or hurt for how they look or for other reasons, which may affect how they feel about themselves and their worth.
  • Cultural influences: BDD may be from the pressure from society and media to look a certain way, or to be attractive or successful. People with BDD may feel bad when they compare themselves to others, and feel that they do not fit in with the images they see in magazines, movies, or social media.

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