Ask anyone what they don’t like about their appearance, and they will likely have no trouble quickly pointing out their perceived flaws. Perhaps they think their nose is too large, their lips too small, or their hair too thin. There are nearly countless ways in which we can criticize our own physical appearance. Still, most people think of these things only occasionally, and it doesn’t interfere with their daily lives. Those with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), on the other hand, are consumed with a fixation on these supposed flaws during most waking moments.
Characteristics of Body Dysmorphic Disorders
From the outside looking in, there may be no discernible flaw in the appearance of someone with BDD. Yet, the idea that something is wrong or displeasing with their body or appearance overwhelms them. Most commonly, the disorder first appears in teens and adolescents, affecting both boys and girls equally. Common areas of focus for those with BDD include facial features, skin and hair. Although, any part of the body can be involved.
The causes of BDD are not completely understood. However, most agree that there is likely a neurobiological component such as a chemical imbalance in the brain. Additionally, life events such as childhood trauma, being regularly criticized about one’s appearance, and having low self esteem can all factor in to develop or exacerbate BDD.
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
The unhealthy preoccupation with perceived physical flaws can lead to physically and mentally detrimental behaviors. Some of the signs often observed in connected with BDD include:
- Spending long periods of time looking in the mirror, picking at the skin, etc.
- Seeking constant reassurance from others regarding the flaw
- Having feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety regarding appearance
- Avoiding interaction with others due to embarrassment or anxiety
- Repeatedly seeking the help of medical professionals such as dermatologists or plastic surgeons to correct or improve appearance
Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder
BDD is a serious disorder. When left untreated, sufferers are at risk for depression and even suicide. They can also go on to harm their health with unnecessary and, at times, unsafe procedures. While BDD sufferers tend to be embarrassed regarding their appearance and isolate themselves from others, overcoming these discomforts and seeing a psychiatrist is imperative. These mental health professionals have the skills and training to address not only BDD, but the underlying causes such as anxiety or past trauma. In most cases, a combination of psychotherapy and medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help patients overcome their insecurities and lead them to accept and even embrace their appearance.
If you are in the Baton Rouge area and suffering from BDD or any related mental health condition, contact Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge, and request an appointment with one of our three board-certified psychiatrists.