Worried about your physical appearance?


Do you think your appearance is very unpleasant?  Do you constantly feel you would like to change a part of your body?  If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to learn more about body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

BDD is a chronic mental illness in which the person believes that he/she has a physical defect in his/her appearance, often a minor defect or an imagined one.  The person suffering from this disease feels so embarrassed that the individual avoids contact with others so they cannot see him or her.  This disorder is sometimes called “imagined ugliness.”

Individuals suffering from this disorder are usually obsessed with their appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. BDD causes many women to try all kinds of cosmetic procedures in an attempt to “fix” the problems. Some even undergo plastic surgery numerous times, but they are never satisfied.

The causes of BDD vary from person to person, but it is usually the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.  In addition, physical abuse and mental and emotional neglect as a child are some life experiences that can lead to the development of this disorder.  Symptoms usually begin in adolescence or in early adulthood, where self-criticism of the personal appearance is so marked that the individual loses track of the “real self” and the “ideal self.”  They may also suffer from depression, social phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In addition, the affected person may become hostile to family members for no reason.

Evaluation by a mental health professional is the best option to identify the signs and symptoms in individuals with BDD.  These include:

• Concern about physical appearance

• Strong belief that you have a problem or defect and that’s why you feel you’re ugly

• A frequent desire to look at yourself in the mirror or avoids mirrors altogether

• The belief that others are noticing something “wrong” in your appearance

• The need to hear from others how you look

• Try all kinds of cosmetics but are satisfied with none

• Excessive grooming

• Refuses to appear in photos

• Compare your appearance with that of others

• Avoids social situations

• The need to wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws

Although the person may be obsessed with any part of the body, usually these individuals are primarily concerned with the following areas:

• Nose

• Hair

• Skin

• Complexion

• Wrinkles

• Acne and spots

• Baldness

• Size of the breasts

• Size of the muscles

• Genital

A person with BDD can become so convinced of the defects that these can give rise to hallucinations.  They imagine something horrible in the body, even when other people tell them otherwise.

The shame is so great that it prevents the individual from seeking help.

If you think you identify with some of these signs and symptoms, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.  BDD usually does not improve by itself.  If left untreated, it can even lead to suicidal thoughts.  Treatment for BDD may include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

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