Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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You look in the mirror and you see yourself, right? Your body and facial features are things you’ve lived with for years, things you’re comfortable and familiar with. This might be true for many people but not for those who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or BDD).
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a relatively unknown mental disorder in which you are extremely obsessive over a flaw (or flaws) in your physical appearance. These flaws may be minor or completely unnoticeable to others. Those who have BDD will spend hours on end thinking or stressing about these flaws, this anxiety can occupy more than half of their thoughts. Someone suffering from BDD will make frequent trips to the bathroom or anywhere where a mirror is available in order to “check up” on these perceived flaws, or to try to hide them. However, some will try to completely avoid mirrors altogether.
“When you have this disorder it feels like you’re trapped; you’ll have positive thoughts for five seconds and then they are reversed by your obsessiveness. Every day there are thoughts that never let up, the worry is always there.” (name withheld upon request)
Often those suffering from the disorder will compare their appearance to others’, develop perfectionist tendencies, and constantly seek reassurance from others about how they look. In some cases, people will undergo extreme cosmetic procedures in order to change their appearance. The anxiety and stress caused by BDD can lead to depression and destroy one’s self image, causing them to avoid social interactions and photos, as well as work or school environments. Those suffering from the disorder will often find themselves caught in claustrophobic thought loops as their perceived flaws inhibit their day-to-day functioning.
The causes of BDD have not been pinpointed, but being in a negative and abusive environment as a child, abnormalities in brain structure, and hereditary genes with this disorder are a few possible causes. BDD itself can develop with other mental or behavioral disorders. It is possible that substance abuse can act as a catalyst for the onset of BDD symptoms.
There are no drugs approved by the FDA to help treat BDD. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the ways therapists are trying to help people cope and overcome this disorder. Therapists focus on helping those affected by BDD learn how to control negative and unrealistic thoughts, they suggest methods for controlling urges and cosmetic impulses. In more severe cases, however, psychiatric hospitalization is required for those whose everyday responsibilities are completely hindered.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder can get extremely severe and start to overpower people’s lives. Many people struggle with BDD but yet aren’t even aware of the disorder, there’s still a lot of light that hasn’t been shone on it overall.