Body Dysmorphia: A Growing Concern 

Body Dysmorphia: A Growing Concern 

We live in an extremely visual society. Before modernization and especially the digital revolution, there was basic lighting, minimal bold colors worn, and a society that didn’t shove graphic, sexual, and totally unrealistic photos and scenarios down our throats everyday. There is a long list of human consequences associated with these and many other societal changes. One of these consequences is a condition called body dysmorphia and it’s on the rise. 

Find out if you or someone you know may be showing signs of body dysmorphia and ways it can be treated. 

Obsessed and Depressed 

“I hate that spot on my lip”

“My eyes are too far apart”

“I want to remove that freckle on my ear”

“My tongue is too large”

“I don’t like my forehead”

“I’m too fat”

“I’m too skinny”

When someone obsesses over a minor, often unnoticeable body concern and repeatedly checks it and sees it as a major problem, they could have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

According to the International OCD Foundation,

“Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7% to 2.9% of the general population — about 1 in 50 people. This means that more than 5 million people to nearly 10 million people in the United States alone have BDD.  It’s possible that BDD may be even more common than this, because people with this disorder are often reluctant to reveal their BDD symptoms to others.”

People with BDD become so overly obsessed with their body image that they feel they are perpetually flawed and therefore constantly check mirrors or ask opinions.

This condition is considered a mental health issue as it is linked to a variety of cognitive disorders including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bulimia – An eating disorder with regular, often secretive bouts of overeating followed by self-induced vomiting or purging, strict dieting, or extreme exercise, associated with persistent and excessive concern with body weight.
  • Other eating disorders such as anorexia
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Anti-social behavior

BDD is often a symptom of one or more of these conditions and should be addressed right away by a professional trained in this field.

Signs and Symptoms of BDD

When struggling with BDD one can experience a multitude of symptoms that most will not understand. However, it is those in the community of BDD that can help. First, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of BDD.

According to the Mayo Clinic these are,

  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding social situations

Women are slightly more susceptible to developing BDD but, overall, it can affect just about anyone at any age. Treatment can be applied on many levels and may include a variety of conventional (pharmaceutical/medical) and/or traditional (natural/holistic).

Treating BDD

It is important to see a doctor to determine if you are struggling with BDD. If left untreated it can lead to a many cognitive and behavioral disorders including suicidal thoughts.

The conventional treatment for BDD includes the usual pharmaceutical protocols prescribed to people suffering from depression, anxiety, etc. with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) the major choice.

However, holistic approaches (which may be adjunct to SSRIs) include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Described by the Mayo Clinic as:

  • Helping you learn how negative thoughts, emotional reactions and behaviors maintain problems over time
  • Challenging automatic negative thoughts about your body image and learning more-flexible ways of thinking
  • Learning alternate ways to handle urges or rituals to help reduce mirror checking, reassurance seeking or excess use of medical services
  • Teaching you other behaviors to improve your mental health, such as addressing social avoidance and increasing engagement with healthy supports and activities

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may also be applied through a variety of app based choices on a smartphone, tablet or computer. In a randomized controlled clinical trial by researchers from the  Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts which found that,

“App uptake and satisfaction were high. In intent-to-treat analyses, Perspectives app-based CBT was associated with significantly lower BDD-YBOCS [Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale] severity at end of treatment…Perspectives, supported by a bachelor’s-level coach, is an efficacious, scalable treatment for adults with BDD.”

Working with a professional, trained in BDD treatment, is the best way to lessen symptoms. Through this and maintaining healthy choices when it comes to diet and exercise could be very helpful. 


Photo by Anna Shvets: