Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that can cause a person to have a distorted perception regarding their appearance and due to this will spend a lot of their daily lives worrying about their appearance, using filters, hiding in pictures and eventually being something they cannot hide away from!
Many people look at those suffering with BDD, thinking that they are just self-obsessed or vain but unfortunately this is not the case and in fact often their daily lives are affected. We all go through periods in our lives when we my feel unhappy about the way we look, but these thoughts will come and go, however someone with Body dysmorphic disorder will find these thoughts very distressing, they will not be able to not stop thinking about the way they look or a certain feature of their body, this will have a significant impact on daily life and often relationships. When you live with this disorder, you believe that people perceive you as ugly or defective, despite reassurances from loved ones.
Who is affected?
Body dysmorphic disorder can affect all age groups, but is more common within the teenage/young adult age bracket, at this time you are generally more sensitive about your appearance. In the UK it is estimated that 1 in 100 people are affected by Body dysmorphic disorder. It has also been found that this condition affects similar numbers of male and females. Research shows that BDD is more common in people who suffer with a history of depression or social phobia, and often links to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalised anxiety disorder, and also sometimes occurs when people have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.
Body Dysmorphic disorder can seriously affect the daily running of the persons life, affecting their work, relationships and social life. When a person has BDD they can often find themselves
• Constantly comparing themselves with other people.
• Spend hours in front of a mirror - sometimes up to 8 hours a day, or on the flip side avoid mirrors completely.
• Be distressed by a particular area of their body- this is most commonly their face and research suggests the area of focus can switch meaning they can be in constant turnmoil.
• When around other people they can feel anxious and will avoid social events.
• Will become very secretive and reluctant to get help as they believe people will see them as vain.
• Will have repeated cosmetic surgery – which is unlikely to help relieve their distress.
• Diet and exercise excessively.
As well as all the above BDD can have many similarities to OCD, with many people having to repeat certain activities such as applying make up, brushing their hair or skin picking. In serious cases of BDD people can find themselves self harming, battling depression and even thoughts of suicide: Why people suffer with BDD is not clear.
How to get help
Having BDD often makes you feel ashamed and embarrassed, meaning that people delay getting help. The first step is for the person to realise that the condition is not their fault and its a long term health condition, that will not improve if left untreated.
The first step in getting treatment is to visit your GP, they will ask you number of questions regarding your symptoms and how they affect and make you feel. Once this process is completed and your GP suspects BDD , they can then refer you to a mental health specialist to be further assessed and for appropriate treatment to be planned.
Depending on the severity of the BDD, and how much it affects your daily life, will depend on the treatment you will receive. People with mild BDD will normally be treated using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where more serious cases will be treated using medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) with sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy. SSRI are a type of antidepressant which increases the persons
serotonin level in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical the brain uses to transmit information from one brain cell to another.
Using cognitive behavioral therapy helps the person to change the way they think about their body, helping them mange and face their problems. Many therapists will set goals over a period of time so that the person will gradually cope better in situations which they would normally be obsessing about their appearance.
There are many organisations which people can visit to find more information about BDD and therapies to help with BDD. Below are a couple of websites .
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation
British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)
At La Ross we are all trained to recognise the disorder and have a team of counsellors and support networks we can refer you to also, whatever happens please know we are here for you xx
Thanks for reading my first blog,