Body dysmorphic disorder also referred to as BDD is a psychological disorder where a person gets so obsessed with his or her physical features that s/he begins to think of himself/herself as ugly. Since body dysmorphic disorder is a psychological disorder the cause of it may vary from person to person. Some may have acquired it because they were constantly being ridiculed for being overweight or were compared to the way other children looked. The former can affect a person from any age group. However, the latter is the most prevalent cause in children. The first person to recognise this psychological condition as body dysmorphic disorder was the researcher Morselli. When he recognised it, in 1886, he named the disorder “dysmorphophobia”. A year later the ‘American Psychiatric Association’ formally recorded and acknowledged dysmorphophobia as a psychological disorder. A study conducted by Dr. Katharine Phillips revealed that the most common obsessions are with physical feature like skin, hair, weight and noses.
Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
To identify body dysmorphic disorder we need to know the causes and the symptoms of this disorder.
The cause of body dysmorphic disorder can be classified into two types: neurobiological and psychological causes. Neurobiological causes can be related to low levels of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a chemical, produced in the brain that aids in the tramission of information in the body. If its levels fall too low it can lead to depression and eventually to body dysmorphic disorder. Psychological causes, on the other hand, are simpler in nature. They are events in a person’s life that leave a negative impact on him thus making him vulnerable to BDD. These events could be an abusive childhood or parents comparing their children to others. Another thing that can cause BDD in a person is assigning emotions to a false reason rather than the true reason.
- Identifying and getting fixated on a defect in the physical appearance even though there is nothing abnormal about it.
- Depression caused by a dislike for one’s physical appearance.
- Withdrawing from social contact with other people.
- Development of an inferiority complex and low self esteem as a result of perceived flaws in physical appearance.
- Getting delusional thoughts about others noticing your physical defects and mocking you for them.
- Getting suicidal thoughts that result from a disgust for one’s physical appearance.
- Addiction to plastic surgery. A person gets so obsessed with a perceived disorder in his/her physical appearance that s/he is willing to get operated upon over and over again just to remove the defect(s).
- Imposing isolation on oneself by refusing to venture out of the house except for times when minimal contact with other people is guaranteed.
- Becoming heavily dependent on people close to oneself for everything.
- Drop in performance at school or at work due to lack of concentration resulting from time spent obsessing about physical feature.
- An inability to initiate, maintain or sustain an intimate relationship with one’s significant other or friends.
- Obsessive compulsive behaviour when it comes to activities like applying make-up or checking one’s appearance in a mirror or any reflective surface.
- On the other extreme of the previous point; avoiding mirrors and photographs of oneself due to a fear of the defective look.
The diagnosis of BDD involves focus on the preoccupation a person may have with a particular body part. However, the good news is that, body dysmorphic disorder is treatable. The two most common treatments for this disorder involve serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive-behavioural treatment. The cognitive behavioural treatment requires doctors to force patients to stop compulsive behaviour like looking at mirrors and encouraging people to raise their self esteem. The procedure is a long and slow process, but has been known to produce good results.