October 6, 2014 by Castlewood Treatment Center in Body Image Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a mental illness involving a belief that one's appearance is unusually defective, or perceiving appearance in way that is distorted from the truth. People who have eating disorders often struggle with body distortions, seeing their shape or size differently than friends, family or even what a mirror or camera shows. With body dysmorphia, thoughts about flaws can be pervasive and intrusive, even when the perceived flaw might be nonexistent.
BDD is about equally prevalent in women and men, and is considered a severe psychiatric disorder occurring around the world. People can have distorted impressions about their skin, features, body shape or fear of hair loss. Typically if the perceived flaw is actual (perhaps in the case of hair loss or skin disorders), recognition of its significance as it relates to a person’s well-being is severely exaggerated.
The amplification of a perceived flaw creates a psychological problem associated with fears of rejection or feelings of low self-esteem, shame, embarrassment and unworthiness. As a result of this emotional distress, individuals with body dysmorphic disorder experience significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. They may stop working and socializing, and can be at risk for episodes of major depression.
Many patients perform repetitive or compulsive behaviors aimed at examining, hiding or improving their appearance. For those who have symptoms of disordered eating, these can include constant comparisons with others, camouflaging (wearing overly baggy clothing), frequent mirror checking or weighing, reassurance seeking, eating a restricted diet or obsessively exercising. These behaviors can occur for many hours a day and are difficult for people with BDD to resist or control.
If you think you or someone you love may have body dysmorphic disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. There are treatment options which will improve functioning and adaptability for people with body distortions, to change faulty appearance-related beliefs. It is possible to overcome BDD and have a healthy self-image with the willingness to work toward a positive and active life again.
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