Body Dysmorphia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is officially a somatoform disorder. BDD is a psychological condition indicated by a complete preoccupation with body image, which is manifested as an obsession with a perceived physical defect, or defects.
Skin, hair and weight come as the top 3 body parts commonly associated with BDD, although extreme cases have seen sufferers convinced that they are missing a limb or have a horrible physical deformity that does not actually exist. This can cause other conditions like major depression and sufferers will often be obsessed with cosmetic procedures or alteration. Some behaviours are compulsive, like self-examination in mirrors or the opposite, avoiding all mirrors. There are also common links with self-harming behaviours, certain personality disorders, eating disorders and suicidal ideation.
Who and why?
Body Dysmorphia is most common in teenagers and is thought to be the result of many factors, social, environmental and emotional. Teasing about the particular body part is a commonly stated reason for pre-occupation as well as a parenting style that was fixed on physical appearance.
Personality traits including those seen in anorexia, such as perfectionism and neuroticism are also common in sufferers of BDD. There have also been previous links made to media pressure placed on people, increasing someone’s overall concern about their body, assisting the preoccupation to take hold.
Many people with this condition will have sought treatment from cosmetic clinicians before considering psychological help, this can often manifest in repeated requests for surgery or alteration and in severe cases suicidal behaviour and psychosis.
Treatment is largely psychological with many sufferers responding well to CBT, studies have shown that patients benefit most from a combination of anti-depressants and psychological interventions.
The first place you should start if you are struggling with BDD or extreme body image issues, is your GP. Here you can expect to be listened to and receive information about treatment options for your individual circumstances and in your locality. If you feel this has not been provided by your GP, you are entitled to a second opinion.
If you are considering seeking psychological help yourself you may benefit from our counselling directory