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What Body Dysmorphia Is and Why You Need Treatment

It is not uncommon to feel self-conscious about your appearance. Peer pressure, social media, unrealistic beauty standards, and other influences make it easy to look in the mirror and fixate on things you want to change. However, there is a difference between having small insecurities and having a significantly distorted view of yourself.  

Body Dysmorphia is a Mental Health Disorder that causes overwhelming negative thoughts about your body and appearance. With Body Dysmorphia, small insecurities can become so all-encompassing that they decrease your overall quality of life.  

Like any Mental Health Condition, Body Dysmorphia is a serious issue that calls for professional attention. Read on to learn more about what Body Dysmorphia is and why you need treatment for this disorder. 

What Is Body Dysmorphia? 

Body Dysmorphia, also known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), revolves around the way you perceive yourself. Someone with BDD exaggerates their own flaws—or creates non-existing flaws—in their mind until their thoughts become preoccupied and obsessed with those defects. This causes intense feelings of shame, embarrassment, and self-consciousness in both private and public settings. As BDD worsens, it starts to affect key parts of your life, including your social relationships, your ability and desire to go out, and your physical and emotional well-being.  

BDD can cause you to fixate on individual body parts or your appearance as a whole. It is important to note that the body parts you fixate on can change over time. Common fixations include worrying about your skin complexion, acne, facial features, stomach, and abdomen. Many men and women also experience gender-specific fixations. For example, women with BDD are more likely to form persistent thoughts about their breasts, hips, and thighs. Men with BDD are more likely to have these thoughts about facial hair, hair loss, and muscle development. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Insight Levels 

One of the biggest challenges with BDD is that those affected do not always realize They are experiencing distorted thinking. BDD affects your thought patterns and clouds your perception of yourself. Even if others reassure you that you look fine or that the features you are worried about are not flaws, you might be unable to see yourself clearly. This distorted thinking makes it difficult to recognize BDD as the Mental Health Disorder that it is and can even lead individuals to seek drastic measures such as plastic surgery or self-harm. 

There are three levels of BDD insight. High insight means that you recognize your views of yourself as false and know that your BDD is influencing your perception. Low insight refers to those who believe their flaws and self-criticisms are most likely true. Finally, no insight means that you fully believe your negative thoughts about yourself. 

Individuals with no BDD insight struggle to understand that their negative thoughts are not true, even when they receive reassurance or evidence that their flaws are not real. These individuals might also experience delusions that emphasize their flaws and negative views of themselves.  

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Symptoms of BDD usually occur when your obsessive thoughts and anxieties impact your quality of life. In addition to affecting your normal habits and routine, these symptoms can prove detrimental to your career, social life, nutrition, and more. Common symptoms of BDD include: 

  • Constantly checking your appearance in a mirror 
  • Avoiding mirrors, cameras, and other means of looking at yourself 
  • Using hats, scarves, clothing, or makeup to cover your perceived flaws 
  • Excessive exercising 
  • Excessive grooming habits 
  • Constantly seeking assurance from others about your appearance 
  • Not believing assurances from others about your appearance 
  • Fearing that others will notice or mock flaws in your appearance 
  • Avoiding social activities 
  • Not leaving the house or only leaving the house at night 
  • Excessive skin picking 
  • Seeking plastic surgery and other unnecessary procedures 
  • Feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, or depression 
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide 

Without professional intervention, these and other behaviors can consume your free time, affect relationships, and become a major source of distress.  

Causes and Risk Factors 

Anyone can develop BDD. It commonly starts in adolescence and can continue throughout adulthood. There are many different risk factors and potential causes for BDD.  

Life experiences, such as experiencing neglect, abuse, or bullying as a child, can create a negative self-image and lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy, paving the way for BDD. Genetics and family history can also play a role; you are more likely to develop BDD if you have relatives with BDD, OCD, or a similar Mental Health Disorder. Finally, brain function and chemistry are also common risk factors. Those who have Anxiety, Depression, or other Mental Health Conditions that lead to abnormal serotonin levels are more likely to develop BDD. 

Comorbid Disorders 

BDD is closely related to several other Mental Health Disorders that influence self-esteem. These include Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, and OCD. Because many of these Mental Health Conditions share similar causes and symptoms, it is not always easy to determine where one ends and another begins. 

Comorbid disorders complicate diagnosis and treatment, but a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who understands the ins and outs of these Mental Health Disorders will know how to treat the problem at its source. 

Treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Once you know what Body Dysmorphia is and how it affects your life, it is clear to see why you need treatment from a mental health professional. However, there are a few factors that can affect treatment of BDD. For example, your level of insight into the disorder will affect how you and your Licensed Clinical Psychologist approach the issue and analyze your thought patterns revolving around your self-image. Age, health, and medical history are also important factors to consider during treatment. A Licensed Clinical Psychologist will take these and other considerations into account in order to develop a specific treatment plan that effectively addresses your BDD. 

Psychotherapy for Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Your Licensed Clinical Psychologist will use a variety of Psychotherapies to create a specialized treatment plan. One of the most effective therapy models is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Through CBT, Licensed Clinical Psychologists can teach patients how their negative thought patterns affect emotions and behaviors. With this knowledge, patients can start to challenge those negative thoughts and replace them with more positive views and responses. This encourages mental resiliency, flexible thinking, and other skills that restructure neural pathways for more positive thought patterns, emotional reactions, and behaviors in the future. 

Blair Wellness Group offers concierge-style treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder and related Mental Health Conditions. In some cases, seeking professional treatment for BDD also means seeking treatment for comorbid disorders, such as seeing a therapist for Eating Disorders in Orange County. Dr. Blair works closely with clients to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the root of their Mental Health Disorder to deliver lasting solutions. Learn more about how Dr. Blair can help you in your mental health journey when you make an appointment with Blair Wellness Group today. 

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