Note: Orignally written for Tiny Medicine. Click on the link below to watch the animated verison of this blog post.
Most of us are guilty of not being satisfied with the man in the mirror but when this dissatisfaction becomes an obsession it’s highly likely that you’re not just been vain but in reality suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. Keep on watching to find out more about this interesting condition.
What exactly is body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder where one is unhappy with their appearance resulting in an obsession with their flaws thereby hindering their ability to lead a normal life. This flaw could either be a figment of the victim’s imagination or when actually present is less significant than it is perceived by the victim. The obsession can be focused on any part of the body but is more commonly focused on the face, hair, stomach, thighs, or hips. Sufferers of BDD on average may spend around 3-8 hours per day thinking, repeatedly checking and comparing the perceived flaw. BDD usually starts in adolescence and affects both men and women equally.
In an attempt to hide their “flaw” victims of BDD may resort to excessive grooming techniques as well as avoid social contact. Some may even seek dermatological treatments or cosmetic surgery which generally doesn’t resolve the distress. Due to the distress caused by the flaws some victims of BDD experience depression, social anxiety and suicidal thoughts. In addition they may also experience delusions that other people are constantly talking about their flaws.
The cause for BDD is thought to be an amalgamation of genetics, environmental, psychological, biological, social and cultural factors.
BDD has also been associated with visual processing abnormalities and executive dysfunction. Meaning a victim of BDD has a bias for analyzing fine details rather than looking at the big picture. For example they focus on the flaw in their face (mole) and cannot see beyond it and are unable to see what the face looks like on the whole.
The Goal of treating BDD is to minimize the false beliefs about the defects as well as minimize the compulsive behavior that follows as a result of it. As BDD shares features with Obsessive compulsive disorder the treatment of BDD is similar to OCD and is treated with a combination of medication and cognitive behavior therapy. At present there isn’t an FDA approved drug to treat BDD but antidepressants and antipsychotics are prescribed in order to treat the symptoms of BDD.
BDD is not a quest to increase one’s appearance but a quest to normalize the appearance.