Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition. BDD causes a person to be anxious about physical defects which are most likely assumed or imaginary or if present exaggerated in your mind—it is so minor that other people cannot notice it.
It is an obsessive focus on perceived flaw in appearance. This perceived physical shortcoming causes embarrassment, shame, anxiety and avoidance. Many people with body dysmorphic disorder tend to shy away from social situations, intimacy , work and public settings.
What it is like living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder –BDD
Long before I knew about the term BDD, I would constantly find faults in certain parts of my body . As a preteen. I used to be so worried about my weight. This was not an imaginary flaw , it was there . I would constantly call myself fat and starve just to loose some weight. I hated every outfit , I either looked like a ball or overaged.
In school, I never engaged in any activity that would make my body move more than I wanted it to. I couldn’t imagine my fatty areas wiggling and getting laughed at or talked about. The word ‘orobo’ which translates to a fat person in yoruba language always tore my heart apart. I disliked been around people, there was always one person that had something to say about my weight.
As a teen , I lost a significant amount of weight , I felt better for a while . I had more clothing options which unfortunately turned my focus to new areas. My new problematic areas were my arms, hip dips , and stomach . My arm wasn’t anywhere near my ideal arm . Why were they flabby? I needed to loose more weight but a particular area . I needed abs too.
I wanted to show my tummy off in crop tops. I starved away , switching between 1-0-0 , 0-1-0 and 0-0-1 eating patterns. Sometimes I would go without food until I couldn’t anymore .Signs that I couldn’t go anymore included dizziness, racing heart, headaches and shakiness. I didn’t mind any of this all that mattered was that I was loosing weight.
Then I found exercise , I would exercise twice a day and sometimes thrice. I was beginning to get my stomach but it was still not perfect ,now I wanted butts. My wants wouldn’t stop. I never looked the way I wanted to, I was either too small or too big but never right. I was at the verge of giving up on my arms. Sometimes, I wished I could just slice off the part I didn’t want .
I bought arm trimmers and wore them for hours every day , still no result. I concluded that the only way out was surgery and gave myself a pep talk to wait until I could afford it. It didn’t stop me from looking at my arms in the mirror every chance I got and try to pinch it my desired size . In every dress I wore I all I saw were my arms and hip dips .
No one was saying any bad thing about my body anymore , I just didn’t like what I saw . I would always compare myself to every person I came across, trying measure and compare my body with theirs.
During one of my searches for perfection, I found out about body sculpting . Perfect! I started to put that into consideration , I could handle it. I was still contemplating when found out about the OC spectrum disorder called BDD.
The symptoms of Body dysmorphic disorder include compulsively checking the perceived flaw , attempting to minimize the perceived flaw by covering it with makeup or clothing and social isolation in order to keep the perceived flaw or the symptomatic behavior from others.
There have been no epidemiological studies on BDD and so clear prevalence rates are not available ; however, it has been estimated that as many as approximately 2% of none clinical samples and 12% psychiatric outpatients suffer from BDD. The condition affects as many men as women and generally first surface in adolescence.
The signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder can vary broadly from one person to another . Although Individuals with BDD can be preoccupied with the appearance of any part of the body, concerns with the skin ,hair and nose is the most common.
In skin, the major focus is usually the face , other areas of concern maybe the neckline , bikini line, arms , legs or back. Common skin conditions that could lead to such preoccupation are acne, wrinkles, freckles, scarring, skin colour or texture. Individuals concern with hair is mostly about balding or excessive body hair.
Women are most likely preoccupied with the breast, body weight, hips, butts and legs, while men are more concerned about the genitalia, excessive hair , balding or it takes the form of muscle dysmorphia which is also referred to as “bigorexia” . Common signs of bigorexia goes beyond normal body building efforts to include a preoccupation with muscle building, overtraining with weight , overuse of protein supplements and sometimes, steroid abuse.
What are the risk factors of BDD?
BDD is likely due to a combination of neurological , biological, environmental and genetic factors.
According to Susan MCQuillan, MS,RDN , your risks of developing Body dysmorphic disorder is heightened if you have close biological relatives with BDD , experienced negative childhood situations like bully or teasing , have certain personality traits such as self esteem , feel societal pressure to meet certain standards for “good looking ” or if you suffer from other psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression. Other factors include : abnormal levels of brain chemicals and personality type.
What are the compulsive behaviors of Body dysmorphic disorder?
This may vary from one person to another, They include:
- Constantly checking mirrors
- Avoiding mirrors
- Trying to hide perceived flaws under makeup or clothing
- Avoiding pictures of you been taken
- Excessive grooming
- Over exercising
- Constantly thinking about your appearance
- Constantly comparing yourself to others
- Compulsive skin picking, using finger nails or tweezers to remove hair
- Not believing people when they say you look fine
- Believing that people take special notice of your perceived flaw
- Avoiding social activities
- Having unnecessary plastic surgeries
- Feeling anxious , depressed and ashamed
- Making multiple doctor visits about your body especially dermatologists
- Suicidal thoughts
All these behaviors per se does not connote the presence of BDD , however, when they become pathological, BDD or an underlying psychiatric disorder might be present.
How can I handle and Prevent Body dysmorphic disorder?
The best way to prevent BDD from becoming a serious problem is by catching it early. With Age , Body dysmorphic disorder tends to get worse . Unfortunately, individuals with BDD tend not to present it to the psychiatrist first but to dermatologists or plastic surgeons , who all have less training to recognize and manage the disorder. Plastic surgery to correct a body flaw rarely helps.
The most common treatment plan for body dysmorphic disorder is the combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be the most effective at treating BDD and antidepressant medication known as selective serotonin uptake inhibitors also help individuals cope with BDD.
CBT provides coping techniques and tools for managing irritational thoughts and negative thinking pattern. Therapists help to convert negative thoughts and behaviors to positive.
Meditation and positive affirmations also help in shifting your mindset about your body from negative to positive.
Disclaimer : I am not an expert, this post was made based on personal experiences and research. I hope it helps.
Did you just find out about this ? If Yes or No , Do you experience this? or know someone who does but doesn’t know what the condition is ? If Yes please share to that person.
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