Everything You Need To Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Everything You Need To Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

We all have imperfections on our bodies that we don’t like. Many of us have experienced low self-esteem or the desire to fix these imperfections due to the distress they cause. However, most of us learn to love our bodies or at least not let our imperfections hinder our quality of life. But some people struggle with this, with the flaws consuming all their thoughts and behaviors. 

People who constantly fixate on their flaws are likely to have body dysmorphic disorder. People with this condition obsess over their imperfections so much that it controls their entire lives. Even if their defect is insignificant, they will believe that they are ugly and will do anything and everything to fix the problem. Such an obsession can affect their school/work performance and relationships and seriously harm their mental health. Read on to learn more about this disorder and how it can be treated. 

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder is more than just being upset about your appearance or an imperfection. It is a mental health condition that occurs when a person is obsessed with their flaws and will completely change their lives or lifestyle to hide or fix the imperfection. Though in most cases, the flaw is insignificant and not noticed by others, the person with body dysmorphic disorder will still obsess over it. Their thoughts and behaviors will be consumed by the imperfection and the need to get rid of it. 

People with this disorder will often go to extremes to hide their imperfections. For example, they may pay for expensive treatments to perfect their bodies or consult doctors numerous times about the imperfection. They may also use excessive filters when taking selfies or posting pictures on social media. If they can’t fix or treat the defect, they may opt to isolate themselves for fear that others will notice it. Their obsession contributes to extremely low self-esteem and depression, and they often feel quite lonely because they believe they are ugly or unlovable. 

Though people with this condition can obsess over any body part or flaw, the most common features that people with body dysmorphic disorder worry about include:

  • Skin/acne
  • Nose
  • Breast size
  • Genitalia
  • Hair

Common Symptoms Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It may not be easy to detect body dysmorphic disorder as almost everyone has some insecurities about how they look. However, someone with this disorder will be obsessive over their looks, and their behaviors will show that. On the other hand, a person who does not have this disorder will still go about their day normally. 

Some common signs of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Checking mirrors and reflections constantly
  • Or avoiding mirrors at all costs
  • Hiding certain body parts beneath clothing
  • Frequently grooming 
  • Asking for constant reassurance that they look okay or that the defect is not noticeable
  • Comparing their appearance to others
  • Avoiding work or school so that no one will see their imperfections
  • Discussing with multiple healthcare providers about their imperfections
  • Going to extreme measures such as plastic surgery or botox to “fix” the imperfection
  • Picking at skin or touching the imperfection often
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Thoughts of suicide**

**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

Treatment Options

Luckily, body dysmorphic disorder is treatable. Since this is a psychological condition, it can only be treated through psychological treatments. The key to treating this condition is identifying the thoughts causing the obsession and then rewire or overwrite them with more positive and healthy thoughts. In addition, a person with this disorder must learn to love themselves and accept their body as it is. 

Therefore the best treatment option is psychotherapy. A therapist can help a person with this disorder manage their negative thoughts and rewire them to focus more on self-love for their body. The person can also learn how to navigate any criticism about their body as well as unhealthy societal beauty standards. 

Group or family therapy is a great treatment option as well. Having the support of loved ones or others who understand the condition can ease any sense of loneliness and isolation. Furthermore, having a support network will encourage the person to continue treatment and feel loved despite their imperfections. 

Finally, mindfulness can also help people with body dysmorphic disorder identify their negative thoughts and develop self-love for their body and its imperfections. 

Bottom Line

Body dysmorphic disorder can cause great distress. People with this condition live life thinking they are ugly or unlovable when in reality, they just have an insignificant flaw that may not even be noticeable to others. Though the thoughts caused by this disorder can be all-consuming, the good news is that this disorder is treatable. With therapy, mindfulness, and a support network, a person with body dysmorphic disorder can change their perspective of themselves and learn to love their bodies. For more information about body dysmorphic disorder, you can find more resources at the link below: 


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