Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

This type of disorder is related to a compulsive obsession with one’s self-image. People suffering from this disorder come to feel high levels of anxiety and have irrational ideas about their physical state that can trigger destructive effects in their lives, developing habits that negatively affect their quality of life. The detrimental daily habits have a major impact on the way these people live their daily lives and affect their self-esteem.

Prognosis of the disease

The specialist will be in charge of advising a treatment for the patient’s improvement but the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder could reappear and in some cases the patient will suffer from them chronically. In case the symptoms are very severe, the patient may even experience suicidal impulses to end his life. This is why he needs the best professionals so that this situation does not occur.

The patient becomes obsessed with some insignificant detail of his physical appearance.

What are the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder?

People with BDD often become obsessed with their appearance, perhaps looking in the mirror several times, touching up their skin and going overboard in correcting a perceived defect. Typical symptoms are:

  • They compare their physical appearance too often with that of others.
  • They are preoccupied with a specific part of their body – usually the face (e.g., nose, wrinkles, face, acne, etc.), hair, skin, genitals, breast size (especially women) or muscle size or tone (especially men).
  • Go to great lengths to hide perceived flaws, e.g., spend a lot of time choosing clothes to wear, combing hair, putting on makeup, etc.
  • Believe that others judge them or make fun of their appearance.
  • Avoidance of social situations.
  • Firm belief of being ugly or even deformed.
  • Always seeking approval from others.
  • Skin picking.
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BDD can also cause other problems. It is often associated with anxiety, mood disorders such as depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse.

Medical tests for body dysmorphic disorder

Some specialists tiptoe around body dysmorphic disorder because of a lack of awareness of the condition and a lack of commitment on the part of the patient to admit that they have a disorder and disclose what is troubling them because of embarrassment. Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychiatric condition but few people visit a psychiatrist because they are sure that their problem is physical and has nothing to do with their psychological health. However, patients who are aware that they may have body dysmorphic disorder seek the best treatment from orthodontists, dermatologists, cosmetologists and plastic surgeons. There is a questionnaire called the Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Dermatology Version (BDDQ-DV).

What are the causes of body dysmorphic disorder?

There are different causes that generate body dysmorphic disorder in a patient, despite the difficulty of diagnosis.

  • Image culture. Every day people are surrounded by advertising messages full of images that express the duty to have a perfect body without any imperfection. In the face of this, one must be aware and try to counteract the negative influence of the image culture by valuing other aspects of life.
  • Bullying. It can be another cause of the disorder, people who may have suffered bullying in their adolescence are prone to suffer a negative identification with their own body. In addition, insults from schoolmates could lead to body dysmorphic disorder.
  • Low self-esteem. Another of the causes that can lead to the disorder is low self-esteem, and it is that loving oneself little can have devastating consequences, such as seeing oneself worse than one is or thinking that one has extra kilos.
  • Fear of being alone. The worry of not having friends or a partner can lead an individual to develop body dysmorphic disorder. In this way there may be people who think that through appearance they can have more friends and become more popular. This added pressure can cause the origin of body dysmorphic disorder in the patient.
  • Perfectionism. Some people are very demanding and hard on themselves. This obsession with perfection can be a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder in some patients.
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Can it be prevented?

The best prevention to avoid body dysmorphic disorder is to stay away from the causes as much as possible. That is, try not to become obsessed with self-image, so that the obsession with the body does not lead to this disorder. On the other hand, finding the specialist who best suits the patient’s needs can be another way of prevention. A professional can help by offering guidelines and advice to help the patient avoid obsession with his or her body and avoid falling into body dysmorphic disorder.

Treatments for body dysmorphic disorder

On several occasions, patients suffering from this disorder undergo various beauty treatments or surgical operations with the aim of changing or modifying their image. In spite of everything they do not manage to overcome the complex that has led them to this operation, or a new preoccupation appears. Consequently, treatment should include psychological help and sometimes medication, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

  • Psychological treatment: A preventive task of exposure and response or cognitive-behavioral therapy can be performed. The first one consists of exposing the patient to what causes anxiety and offering techniques to control the anxiety and negative feelings. The process is repeated as many times as needed until the person no longer suffers from anxiety. On the other hand the second one, helps the patient to change his negative and pessimistic thoughts, in this way he can reconsider his thoughts and actions.
  • Medication: In the most severe cases where the symptoms are severe and affect the development of the patient’s day to day life, the specialist can prescribe antidepressants, usually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that work correctly with patients who present severe symptomatology.
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Which specialist treats it?

The expert who treats this condition is the psychologist, a specialist in disorders who is responsible for detecting, evaluating, diagnosing and treating psychology-related disorders.