What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

October 15, 2016

There are some syndromes, disorders and diseases that are not well known. Sometimes even those who suffer them are unaware. Their symptoms go unaddressed because of lack of awareness. Today we will discuss an important disorder that is more common than we think: body dysmorphic disorder.

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

It is characterized by excessive concern with one’s body and appearance. Usually, the person spends a lot of time engaging in behaviors to control how the body looks. The symptoms usually intensify when they feel they are being observed.

Many of their actions are repetitive behaviors such as constantly examining themselves in the mirror, grooming themselves excessively, comparing themselves with others or hiding those body parts they are not happy with and perceive to be negative.

According to a study by the Spanish Society of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (SECPRE), in Europe and America, the number of people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder is increasing as their symptoms are considered “normal” socially and are not recognized as pathological.

This syndrome makes people feel and perceive themselves as “very ugly,” even though that’s not the case. The body parts that often cause major concern are: skin, hair, nose, eyes, chin, lips or other body part such as the knees, legs and chest.

A survey in the US of 30,000 people, published in Psychology Today, said that 93% of the women and 82% of the men questioned were concerned about their physical appearance and work every day to improve and feel good.

Most patients with this syndrome are young, with a higher number of men than women. Studies confirm that it begins during adolescence when the individual is more concerned about their image, feels more observed and has a more active social life. The average age of onset of symptoms of the disorder is seventeen.

Many of these young people go under the knife even though dysmorphia is a mental issue, not physical. Because of this, the Doctor of Psychology, Gustavo Bustamante, says that surely many of the people who get cosmetic plastic surgery are not and will not ever be satisfied with the results.

What are the causes of body dysmorphia?

Society emphasizes appearance over intelligence, without keeping true “inner” beauty in mind.

It’s possible that there’s a double origin of the disease: the psychological and the biological. In biological terms, the explanation focuses on a certain genetic predisposition to a mental disorder and imbalance in brain neurotransmittersPsychologically, exaggerated attention given to oneself is due to a lack of self-esteem. 

How is it diagnosed?

The major symptoms to detect this disease are abnormality in the routine or in basic activities such as:

  • Avoiding social events with a lot of people.
  • Self-harm generated by this dissatisfaction with their body image which allows them to later justify undergoing cosmetic surgery and will supposedly allow them to overcome this erroneous perception.
  • Spending a lot of time devoted to the topic of the body with which they believe they have a problem and cannot find a solution.

What is the treatment?

Recognizing the problem’s psychological origin is the first and most important step. From there, individuals can work on increasing their self-esteem, accepting themselves as they are, both physically and internally.

Support of family and friends is also important. Loved ones can help by emphasizing the inner talent of the person struggling with this disorder.

Love in any disorder, syndrome and pathology is vital and the healthiest, most beautiful and accessible antidote, along with an appropriate psychological treatment. Showing a lot of love towards the person and showing our unconditional support in this case will help greatly.