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Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Obsessive Focusing On Body Flaws

Julian Carter


Woman watching herself in broken mirror

What Is The Meaning Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

It is a severe psychiatric disorder in which a person cannot stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in his/her appearance. It is also known as dysmorphia. 

A person with body dysmorphic disorder will intensely focus on his/her appearance and body image repeatedly and has the tendency to start checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance many times a day.

Due to the perceived flaw and repetitive behaviour, the person may significantly lead to distress that may impact the ability to function in their day-to-day life.

People with body dysmorphic disorder may sometimes seek numerous cosmetic procedures in order to fix their flaws. But mostly, the anxiety returns, and the person will resume searching for other ways to fix their perceived flaw.

It is necessary to diagnose and treat dysmorphia because the disorder is relatively common and causes significant distress and impairment in functioning.

How Bad Is My Body Dysmorphia?

Just because body dysmorphia is a mental illness don’t underestimate it. If left untreated with body dysmorphic disorder, it will lead to severe consequences, such as suicidal ideations due to frustration and attempts, increased anxiety and depression, and eating disorders.

It will cause a severe impact on the overall quality of life.

How Do You Know If You Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

People with body dysmorphic disorder often develop intrusive and persistent thoughts related to their appearance. They will majorly focus on marks, scars, shape, or symmetry of a particular body part.

These thoughts can disturb you anytime without warning signs causing difficulty in stopping or changing your thoughts.

CBT teaches you to recognise false or harmful thoughts so you can view difficult circumstances more clearly and react to them more successfully.

Persistence of such thoughts causes significant disruption in your quality of life and that can be easily recognized with the following symptoms:-

  • Being excessively preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance cannot be seen/noticed by others, or even appears very minute.
  • A belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you look ugly or deformed.
  • A thought that people are noticing the minor defect or flaw, especially in a negative way.
  • Being engaged in fixing and hiding the perceived flaw is difficult to resist or control, like frequently checking the mirror, grooming, or skin picking.
  • Trying to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup, or clothes.
  • Continuously comparing your appearance with others.
  • Frequently asking for reassurance feedback about your appearance from others.
  • Trying to build perfectionist tendencies.
  • Trying cosmetic procedures with less satisfaction.
  • Preventing social interaction/situation 

Giving limitations to your appearance, excessive thoughts, and repetitive behaviours can be unwanted or difficult to control and can cause major distress or difficulties in social life(work, school, or other functional areas).

People with body dysmorphic disorder often focus on some parts of the body that may change with time. The most common features people tend to facilitate include:-

  • Face, like nose, complexion, wrinkles, acne, and other blemishes
  • Style, thinning, and baldness of hair
  • Skin and vein appearance
  • Size of the breast, thighs, or hips 
  • Muscles size and tone
  • Genitalia

Such mental disorders often occur in men thinking about their bodies being too small or not muscular enough. People with body dysmorphic disorder will start getting reality checks about the false flaws that they have been considering with the passing time. 

With time the person will believe that the more convinced you are with the beliefs, the more distress and disruption the person will experience in their life.

Can You Diagnose Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Before diagnosing, the person has to struggle for a period of time before coming forward and seeking help. Such people often fear judgement from others even though their level of distress is severely high. 

To diagnose body dysmorphia, the following criteria are to meet:-

  • A psychological evaluation assesses risk factors, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours associated with a negative self-image.
  •  Personal, social, family, and medical history.
  • Referring to symptoms mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association, will help the person to be diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder(BDD).
Do not take any medicine on your own until and unless adviced by the doctor

How Is BDD Cured?

You might feel daunted, but psychiatric treatment can be very beneficial for addressing thoughts and energy around you.

Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder involves a combination of cognitive-behavioural therapy and medications. The treatment majorly focuses on

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

  • It is considered the first-line treatment of body dysmorphic disorder that improves changing the maladaptive thoughts and briefs you about ways to be in the present.
  • Making you aware of how negative thoughts, emotional reactions, and behaviours causes a problem with the passing time.
  • Realizing automatic negative thoughts about your body image and learning more flexible ways of thinking.
  • Knowing alternate ways to handle urges or rituals to help lower mirror checking or reassurance.
  • Make you aware of other behaviours to improve mental health, like addressing social avoidance.
  • Talking to your therapist regarding the consequences of the treatment and taking an interest in other ways of making your mind healthy will also help you get through such disorders.

It is necessary for people with body dysmorphic disorder to allow themselves adequate time for psychotherapy to be effective.

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