What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?
Often people confuse BDD with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), although there are similarities (obsessive thoughts), OCD deals with more than just obsessive thoughts about physical appearance. Similarly, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are often confused with BDD; however, BDD sufferers are concerned with more than just their weight. BDD is not a condition where the individual is obsessed with how beautiful they are but rather it is a mental health condition related to how the sufferer perceives their appearance, and as such is often a self-esteem issue. The individual suffering from BDD will have a completely distorted perception about a real or imagined flaw in their appearance and this creates irrational beliefs. The irrational beliefs the individual has about their appearance then lead to an excessive obsession with the body part(s) involved. These may include obsessive thoughts and/or rituals which cause the sufferer significant distress andoften disrupt daily functioning.
- Feeling that their face lacks symmetry or their body shape is out of proportion.
- Going to excessive lengths to hide or cover up the area(s) of their body that they feel are disgusting.
- Constantly checking themselves in the mirror or in any other reflective surfaces and if they are unable to check will have several repetitive thoughts about the area.
- Feeling trapped when looking in the mirror and spending prolonged amounts of time in front of it; unable to move. Or equally, avoiding the mirror altogether.
- Talking negatively about their area of unhappiness whilst in social situations as to seek reassurance.
- Comparing themselves with models, celebrities, friends or even strangers.
- Trying desperately to avoid bright lights, having their photos taken and people seeing them from certain angles.
- Seeking surgery to correct the area of their concern, despite the professionals involved informing them that nothing needs to be ‘corrected’.
- A dry mouth.
- Hot flushes.
- Cold or sweaty hands.
- Heart palpitations or shortness of breath.
- Feelings of panic, fear and apprehension.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Tense muscles.
- Having a reoccurring upset stomach.
The Role of Media in BDD
In this day and age, there is a certain body ideal that individuals all over the world are told that they must adhere to. However, focusing on this can have a negative impact on yourself, and may lead to BDD. You may begin to believe that the body they are promoting is what your body should look like. For women especially, we are put on a pedastal; no cellulite, flat tummies and curves in all the right places. The feminine form has been the source of such scrutiny and widespread exploitation by marketing companies that the entire concept of beauty has been hijacked. It is reimagined, repackaged and resold to us with each passing generation.
However, body dysmorphia isn’t a gender-specific issue and can affect people from both sexes. Men make up approximately half of the world’s population, and contrary to the belief of males being hardened souls, they’re just as susceptible to all the same emotional trappings as women when it comes to inclusivity and feeling secure in their own body. The status quo that today’s modern man has to measure up to is no less unrealistic than what is presented to women, and it creates exactly the same problems.
If you are diagnosed with Body Dismorphic Disorder, there are different options available to you. Antidepressant medication can be effective, as well as having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Psychotherapy. Both of these are ‘talking therapies’ and involve being taught how to channel negative feelings and thoughts and replace them with positive ones. As well as talking therapies you may be asked to have Behavioural Therapy which includes carrying out a number of tasks set with the aim of reducing the amount of negative actions you do on a daily basis. If untreated those with BDD can go on to suffer from depression, self-harm and even substance abuse. But remember, at least 1-5 per cent of the population are affected by BDD – so if you are diagnosed with it you are most definitely not alone.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used in the NHS and by Psychologists and Psychotherapists in private practice to help people deal with emotions by addressing behaviours and thoughts. From childhood to older age, body esteem is a big factor in how we think about ourselves. Here are few ways in which you can help prevent negative thoughts about yourself.
Put Appearance Into Prospective
To help with the way you feel about yourself it best to put your appearance into prospective. Think about your loved ones, and why you love them? Then think how much appearance has to do with this?
Identify Your Negative Thoughts
One good way to do this is to keep a thought diary. When you’re feeling down and start feeling bad about how you look, write down exactly what it was that started these thoughts, and what these thoughts have led to.Take notice if your body starts to tense up when you look in the mirror or if you get frustrated when focus on your perceived ﬂaws. Start to be aware of what thoughts go with these emotional reactions.
Highlight Your Negative Thoughts
When you have identiﬁed your negative thoughts, start questioning their validity.
Are you ﬁltering? People often become biased towards negative information when feeling down or self-defeated. Did your boss really only say negative things to you?
Are you catastrophising? Because one person didn’t ﬁnd you attractive, are you really going to be alone for ever?
A trail of thought can go something like this “I’m no good at this” or “who would want someone with a waist like mine”. These thoughts can happen so quickly that we don’t even realise that there is a place to interject, to help stop these quick ﬁre associations. You need to spot them early, and this is what CBT helps you to do, it allows people to be their own therapist.
The more you self-reﬂective you are, the quicker you can master your own thoughts. It’s always important to remember that it is the difference in people’s minds and bodies that make the human race so powerful. If we all looked like Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie, we’d get bored of each other very quickly.
How Can I Find Treatment for BDD?
BBC. (30th Mar 2019). The Male Body Positive Instagram Influencer Who Ditched His Six Pack. Retrieved on 16th October, 2019 from, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47693925
Psychology Today. (15th Oct 2018). Positive Body Image Men. Retrieved on 16th October, 2019 from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/mind-your-body/201810/positive-body-image-in-men
Healthline. (2018). Positive Body Image Men. Retrieved on 16th October, 2019 from, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/male-body-image-problems
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