Most of us spend some time in front of the mirror checking our appearance. How we feel about our appearance is part of our self-image, and it’s perfectly natural to take care of our bodies and be interested in the way we look.
At some points in our lives, many of us will also experience some level of dissatisfaction with some aspect of the way we look. This can be especially true during adolescence when our bodies and appearance go through lots of changes. Although many of us feel dissatisfied with some aspect of our appearance, these worries usually don’t constantly occupy our thoughts or cause us to feel tormented.
For some people, concerns about appearance become extreme and upsetting. Some people become so focused on imagined or minor imperfections in their looks that they can’t seem to stop checking or obsessing about their appearance. Being constantly preoccupied and upset about body imperfections or appearance flaws is called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
BDD is a condition where people spend a lot of time worried about and concerned about their appearance.
People with BDD might focus on what they think is a facial flaw, but they can also worry about other body parts, such as short legs, breast size, or body shape. Just as people with eating disorders obsess about their weight, those with BDD become obsessed over an aspect of their appearance. They may worry their hair is thin, their face is scarred, their eyes aren’t exactly the same size, their nose is too big, or their lips are too thin.
BDD has been called “imagined ugliness” because the appearance issues the person is obsessing about usually are so small that others don’t even notice them. Or, if others do notice them, they consider them trivial. But for someone with BDD, the concerns feel very real, because the obsessive thoughts distort and magnify any tiny imperfection. This obsession is very distressing for people with BDD and can cause great impact on day-to-day functioning.
People with BDD tend to spend prolonged periods of time feeling trapped in front of the mirror. They may camouflage their perceived defect with clothing, make-up, hats or posture. They may avoid social situations, or even avoid getting out of the house as they fear their imagined or minor defect will attract undue attention. Some people with BDD will consult a cosmetic surgeon to have the imagined or minor defect corrected. In some cases, distress can become so overwhelming that people consider suicide.
If you are experiencing distressing preoccupations about some aspect of your appearance that interferes with your daily life and well-being, please contact us to make an appointment.
Psychological therapy has been found to be a highly effective treatment for BDD, and our therapists at Altum are here to help.
For more information about BDD, please see the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation: http://www.bddfoundation.org.
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