What Is Body Dysmorphia And How Can It Be Treated?

Last updated by Katie M.

We have all dealt with the fear of feeling ugly or deformed before, however, when this becomes an obsession and forces you into social isolation, depression and even towards suicide, you may need to consider the possibility that you're suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. This is an obsessive-compulsive disorder which affects around 2% of the population, yet still remains fairly unknown. This condition goes further than just focusing on a negative self-image, because it eventually goes on to impact every area of our life.


Vacation season is fast approaching and that means many of us will be spending much of our time on the beach. Once the temperatures start to soar and we start to dress for the summer season, our doubts and insecurities often resurface. And yes, we know, it’s hard comparing your figure to those perfect and unachievable ones found in magazines. It's normal not to feel totally bodily confident 24/7, but if you find yourself obsessing over how you look, you may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), an obsessive-compulsive disorder

>>> Find out why I love going topless.

What are the symptoms and signs someone suffers from body dysmorphia?

Going through adolescence is a difficult time for accepting and embracing your body. Although young people spend countless hours looking at themselves, there is nothing abnormal about it. However, it’s during adolescence that symptoms for Body Dysmorphic Disorder will start to appear, even though people are more commonly diagnosed with it in their 30’s.

Hatred for you face and body

People suffering from this disorder are ashamed of one or several parts of their body, often the head and face, but the obsession can extend to their figure or weight, in the case of eating disorders. They might spend many hours looking at themselves in the mirror, inspecting all their marks, trying to cover up their faults; eyes, nose, teeth, etc. Their body is the subject of suffering. Those with the disorder feel disfigured, freakish and their behavior might alter the psychological and social functioning of these people.

Muscle dysmorphia is the equivalent in men

Although body dysmorphic disorder affects both men and women, muscle dysmorphia is said to be equivalent to anorexia nervosa in men. The very muscular individual continuously sees themselves as being too thin, skinny and small. Their obsession therefore leads them to carry out intensive sport, accompanied with dieting and taking nutritional supplements.

>>> Discover why eating food makes us feel so good!

What are the consequences and causes of BDD?

The shame experienced often forces those suffering with BDD to have difficulty socializing with others. They might stay cooped up at home when it is raining or windy for fear that their makeup might wash away or their hair may get messed up. Able to spend the entire day thinking about their faults, many live alone and don’t work because this obsessive-compulsive disorder forces them to socially withdraw from life. Some apply so much cream or treatment that they cause themselves injuries.

Those with BDD have very low self-esteem and often suffer from depression. It is common for them to try and solve their issues by going to see a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. But this is just an illusion as clinical intervention will only simply shift the problem onto another part of the body.

In the most severe cases, in an attempt to improve their physical appearance, some go as far as carrying out surgery themselves on their own body or attempting suicide.

This disorder has multiple causes:

  • Being mistreated or mocked about their looks during childhood
  • Failure, a breakup and betrayal may lead to focusing on a fault or flaw and convincing yourself that that is the reason for your suffering
  • Fear of sex, of which the imagined fault and ugliness protect you

>>> This article might be of interest: 6 Tips To Conquer Your Shyness Once And For All

Editor's opinion - Treatment is the key

As social withdrawal and depression are so significant, you should turn to psychotherapy. Given the obsessive-compulsive nature of the disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven to treat Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

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Article presented by Katie M.

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