People from all walks of life may have something about their appearances that upsets them. While many people learn to embrace their bodies, some develop body image problems that can lead to depression and anxiety.
Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a psychological condition that causes delusions about one's outward appearance. While people with BDD may have delusions about any part of their bodies, many people with BDD have problems with parts of their face, their ears or the shape of their head. Preoccupation with these features can be so intense that it's difficult for sufferers to see beyond their delusions.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, BDD may be triggered by a slight physical imperfection. But to those with the condition, the flaw is perceived to be prominent — causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.
BDD is not exclusive to women, as it affects nearly as many men as women. Research conducted by Butler Hospital in Providence, RI, found that, among 188 subjects, BDD diagnosis was relatively equal among women and men (49 and 51 percent, respectively). Women with BDD were found to be more preoccupied with skin, weight and their hip size, while the men studied were concerned about thinning hair, body build and genital appearance.
BDD usually develops in adolescence, says the BDD Foundation. This is a time when people become more sensitive about their appearances. Recognizing the symptoms of BDD can help a person get help more quickly, which can potentially head off harmful behavior, including suicide attempts. The following are some of the more common symptoms of BDD, according to ADAA:
• camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
• comparing body parts to others' appearance
• seeking surgery
• checking in a mirror
• avoiding mirrors
• skin picking
• grooming excessively
• exercising excessively
• changing clothes excessively
Those with BDD also may experience symptoms similar to those experienced by people with obsessive-compulsive disorder or social anxiety disorder. In many instances, people with BDD may suffer from a combination of mental health disorders.
There are some effective treatments for BDD. Such treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, which teaches patients to recognize and change negative thinking patterns. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed as well.
People who suspect they or a loved one is suffering from BDD should first visit their general practitioners. Social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists may also help people with BDD.