If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and saw a distorted, larger or smaller version of yourself staring back at you, then this may be a form of body dysmorphia. In fact, body dysmorphia is a common disorder, affecting over 5 million people each year. To say the least, it’s something that’s worth taking seriously. Here’s what you need to know about someone who is dealing with body dysmorphia.
1) Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD)
Body Dysmorphia is an anxiety disorder focused on negative body image. It’s characterised by fixation on perceived flaws (‘my nose is too big’) and routines designed to minimise those flaws (‘before going out in public, I must apply layers of makeup to disguise this’). It’s closely related to both social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
2) Common symptoms of BDD
Common symptom of BDD involve obsessive grooming, obsessive exercise, overuse of beauty products like make-up and fake tan, seeking reassurance about one’s appearance, constantly comparing one’s appearance to that of others, fixation with cosmetic surgery.
3) A key aspect of BDD
The key to body dysmorphia is an unhealthy relationship with mirrors and/or cameras. These are either avoided, or fixated on; the sufferer may switch between the two extremes. Social media (particularly image-driven sites, like Instagram) can prove really problematic for BDD sufferers for this reason, and social media fixation should be considered an indicator of the disorder.
4) Muscle dysmorphia disorder
This is a rare subtype of BDD in which the sufferer is focused on being too skinny, or not being muscular enough. Like other types of BDD, this is often made worse by exposure to digitally enhanced ‘ripped’ models, and is typically (although not exclusively) experienced by men.
5) Although the two are related, body dysmorphia is not the same as an eating disorder
The two shouldn’t be confused. The negative thoughts that result from an eating disorder are focused on weight, body shape and figure, whereas those of BDD can be directed at any body part.
7) A support system is crucial
Unfortunately for people suffering from body dysmorphia, the people close to them can make the problem worse by categorising the BDD preoccupation with their appearance as self-absorption. Criticising them for being ‘vain’ or ‘in love with themselves’ is really damaging — and couldn’t be further from the truth.
8) As an anxiety disorder, BDD can be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT, which the NHS provides).
CBT is useful because its focus is on replacing negative or obsessive patterns of behaviour with healthier, body-positive thoughts. Antidepressants can also reduce anxiety. Those who wish to delve a little deeper and understand the causes of their BDD may also benefit from private psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy. If you know someone dealing with body dysmorphia, this is one of the best methods of treatment!