Body dysmorphia 101: What is it, how do you know you have it, and how is it treated

Everything you need to know

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We've all struggled with our appearance at some point in our lives, but if your anxiety about what you look like is reaching a distressing and unreasonable level, you might be one of the many people out there who suffer with Body Dysmorphia Disorder. 

For those of you aren't completely sure what BDD actually means, we've gathered a bit of info that might be helpful in knowing what to look out for if you become concerned about friends, family members, or even yourself.

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So, what actually is Body Dysmorphia Disorder?

BDD is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to develop a distorted view of their appearance, with it's sufferers spending a lot of time worrying that their appearance is abnormal and ugly - despite reassurances from others about their looks.

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Who is affected?

Anybody can develop BDD, with males and females being equally affected by the condition. One thing that does tend to increase your chances in having BDD is being young; most people tend to develop the condition in their teen years.

The estimates of people affected by BDD are currently at 1 in 100 - but figures are difficult to predict due to the fact that people with the condition tend to hide it from others, and are less likely to get a diagnosis.

It should also be mentioned that people who already suffer with anxiety disorders, social phobias, and eating disorders are more likely to develop problems with Body Dysmorphia.

What are the tell-tale symptoms of someone having BDD?

The nature of this condition is that it's sufferers are reluctant to talk to people about their concerns. But, there are things you can keep an eye on if you're worried about someone in your life.

A person with BDD is likely to:

  • Constantly be comparing their looks to other people.
  • Have a complicated relationship with mirrors - they're either constantly checking on their appearance, or will do anything to actively avoid them.
  • Spend a lot of time and energy concealing a particular part of their body - with the face being a common site of upset.
  • Avoid any social situation that would involve people looking at them.
  • Be anxious about sharing their concerns with others for fear of being seen as self-obsessed.
  • Have an unhealthy and obsessive relationship with diet and exercise
  • Have voiced an interest in cosmetic surgery - to fix the 'defect' they are so concerned about.
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What causes BDD?

It's a difficult one to pin-point, but studies have drawn links to genetics and a chemical imbalance in the brain. Like many anxiety disorders, BDD is often tied in with upsetting past experiences. People who were bullied, teased, or abused as children are more likely to develop the condition than others.

So, how is it treated?

If you think you might have BDD, the first step is in speaking to your doctor about your concerns. The condition can then be treated by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and, if necessary, a medication called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) - which is only used in severe cases. 

Your thoughts on this? Let us know with a tweet @sugarscape or drop us a comment in the box below.

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