Do you know someone who is unhappy with their physical appearance? Probably yes. With excessively unrealistic beauty standards of our society, constantly backed and reinforced by media and the fashion industry, it is obviously reflecting into body image problems. It is more common among women, of course, because young girls are raised to be more conscious about their body and appearance. Statistics are getting worse for teens when the need to fit in and peer approvals are highest. However, distressing and taxing poor body image is, it still does not qualify for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Famous cases of Body Dysmorphic disorder
Former glamour model Alicia Douvall is reported to have spent over £1m on over 300 cosmetic procedures! Michael Jackson, King of POP-MUSIC, underwent 30 cosmetic surgeries and completely transformed his look over the years throughout his career. He was extremely unhappy with the way he initially looked. Miley Cyrus, Robert Patterson, Shakira, Reid Ewing, Hayden Panettiere, Britney Snow, and many other celebrities have talked openly about having body dysmorphic disorder. It’s amazing how many stars we see as an embodiment of perfection perceive themselves as defective enough to be depressed about their perceived imperfections.
What is Body Dysmorphic disorder?
Poor body image is related to body dysmorphic disorder but it is not body dysmorphic disorder itself. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a real psychological disorder that can be diagnosed by using criteria provided by DSM V. According to the definition provided by DSM V, BDD is an excessive reoccurring obsession with a perceived defect in the physical appearance of a person, which causes distress enough to disrupt social or academic life of an individual.
Perceived physical defects could be real or unreal. Even if the perceived defect is really the concern of the person is exaggerated. An individual is likely to spend several hours of a day ruminating over the perceived defect. It is a serious psychological condition which left untreated could lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Depression and social anxiety can reach the extent that a person may start trying to avoid social situations or go to lengths to cover up the perceived image in social situations.
A person suffering from BDD may lack insight into the true nature of the problem and seek consultancies from dermatologists or self medicate for the perceived defect. In some cases, people with BDD may opt for cosmetic surgeries.
What is not Body Dysmorphic disorder?
- It is not vanity or self-obsession.
- It is not attention-seeking behavior.
- It is not just overthinking.
Onset and Causes of Body Dysmorphic disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder symptoms typically start showing in early teens mostly however it may stem at in later age after a particular event which leads to the perceived defect. BDD can be caused due to a combination of reasons, like OCD it can have a biological basis that gets triggered by environmental factors. Children made fun of by adults or teased by family members for their looks, youngsters in environment emphasizing physical attributes, and teenagers who are criticized by their peers for their physical appearance, have a higher ratio of developing BDD.
Abbey has talked about emotional abuse and body dysmorphic disorder at length on her blog. She has boldly shared her personal struggles with BDD and has shared her experience as a person who was targeted and judged for being ‘too skinny’. Abbey told in her blog that no matter how much she ate and tried to gain weight she was not able to do so due to her very active metabolism. She shared that how friends and family contributed to her stress by constantly commenting about her weight. Her friends told her not to wear this or that and that and said they felt ashamed about going out with her. This led her to feel depressed and hate her body; she did not want to see herself in the mirror, frequently cried, and often wished that one day she would wake up in a different body. She said that feeling that you are not pleasing to look at makes you fear meeting new people and eventually leads to social isolation and it is immensely depressing.
Abbey says although she is not quite over the distress but has successfully cut out negative people from her life and has surrounded herself with positive supporting friends and this has helped her a lot in feeling better about herself. Instead of beating herself up about things she did not like about the appearance she instead chose to compliment herself about the things she liked about herself.
Abbey shared in another blog post about her struggle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder that in 2017 she got married and eventually her husband discovered her trouble towards her own body. Through his support and love and some help from therapy, Abbey has started to come to terms with her body. She hopes that she would get rid of negative views towards her arms and body one day entirely and loves herself as an entire package but till then she will fight. She hopes to create awareness towards this mental health issue which is very real and very serious.
Other Problems Related to BDD
Body Dysmorphic disorder may lead to development of social anxiety, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and even suicidal attempts in some cases. Other related issues are decreased life satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. In some cases, it may lead to sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
As Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a serious problem and needs professional help, there is an anxiety-reducing medication that can help along with therapy. Cognitive Behaviour therapy has shown the most promising improvements, delivering the best and long-lasting results. Another helpful approach that we as a society can work on, not only to help people suffering from BDD but also to prevent its development, is to lift off the pressure for meeting the physical standards of beauty. Instead, gratify the natural need for approval through compliments that are not related to physical appearance.