I first heard the term “body dysmorphia” from one of my favorite YouTubers, Remi Cruz. At first, I just thought it was a fancy term used to describe body insecurities. However, after doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered that it’s so much more than just a few negative thoughts. If you’d like to learn more about this serious condition that widely affects the teen population, keep reading.
What is it?
A person with body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, will find a flaw on their body and obsess over it constantly. This flaw does not have to be weight-related. It can be a perceived imperfection regarding the face, hair, or skin, just to name a few. Oftentimes, this flaw is nonexistent or unnoticeable to others. People with the disorder experience incessant, negative thoughts about their imperfection and are always trying to find ways to either fix or hide it. They might avoid social situations, such as family gatherings, school, or work. As the condition progresses, it can lead to an eating disorder, substance abuse, severe depression, and suicide.
What causes it?
The causes behind BDD vary from case to case. Sexual harassment and childhood abuse can both contribute to a person developing the condition, as can perfectionism. Other, more biological causes are malfunctioning serotonin and a family history that includes BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Probably the biggest culprit behind BDD is societal standards regarding appearances. Social media, body shaming, and bullying can force these standards onto people, making them feel like they have to change their looks in order to be accepted. Even just a casual, offhand comment about one’s appearance can send someone on a downward spiral. It’s important for us to watch watch how we interact with those around us, both in real life and online. We carry more influence in people’s lives than we realize.
Who can get it?
Body dysmorphia can affect anyone. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that about 1 in 50 people have BDD. Additionally, the disorder affects both men and women equally, and it typically takes root during the teenage years.
How is it treated?
As with many mental disorders, there is no medicine that will magically cure BDD. However, there are measures that people can take to reverse the symptoms and prevent them from progressing. The first step in recovering is to go to a primary care doctor, who will officially diagnose the condition and likely make a referral to a mental health professional. After assessing the patient, the mental health professional will move on to starting treatment. The two most common forms of treatment are to prescribe antidepressants (these are typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and to prescribe cognitive behavioral therapy. Both methods work to counter and control the patient’s intrusive thoughts and behaviors, though they accomplish this in different ways. A few ways for the patient to continue treatment at home are to regularly connect with others, start journaling, find a support group, and pick up a relaxing hobby.
How can I help someone with BDD?
If there are people in your life that you think have BDD, encourage them to seek professional treatment. Maintain a strong, personal relationship with them in order to keep them from self-isolating. Keep yourself open and available in case they want to talk about what they’re going through. Be careful about how you talk about your own body around them, and demonstrate self-love in your actions and speech. Even if you don’t know someone with body dysmorphia, be careful of how you talk about and treat your body. You never know how the way you treat yourself will affect those around you.
Overall, body dysmorphia is an overwhelming and consuming mental disorder that makes it extremely difficult to enjoy life. Luckily, there are ways to fight against this beast of a condition. I hope that you learned something worthwhile from this article, and if you’re facing BDD yourself, know that you are extremely valued and so much stronger than your thoughts.
If you would like to learn more about BDD, or if you are seeking support, visit the link below or email [email protected].
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