It’s no secret that society puts pressure on people—particularly women—to look a certain way. However, some individuals experience more than mild concern about their weight or appearance. Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, refers to a condition in which patients experience serious distress about their appearance. Not only can living with body dysmorphic disorder impact quality of life, making it difficult to work or enjoy time with loved ones, but patients with this condition also have an increased risk of suicide.
According to the International OCD Foundation, this condition usually involves a fixation on one or more parts of the body, such as:
- Face (including eyes, nose, brows, lips, and teeth)
- Skin (referring to the complexion or color)
- Hair (texture, amount)
Estimates reveal that between 1.7% and 2.4% of the general population—about 1 in 50 people—suffer from this debilitating disorder. However, doctors believe the prevalence of BDD could be even higher, as many patients are hesitant to reveal their symptoms to others. Although BPD can occur in people of any age, individuals often start to show signs in their early teens. Early treatment is one of the best ways to prevent BDD symptoms from worsening.
Conducting a Self-Test for Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Wondering if you or someone you love suffers from body disorders like BDD? People with body dysmorphic disorder often demonstrate repetitive compulsions to evaluate or correct perceived flaws in their appearance. These activities can occupy up to eight hours of time a day. Here are some of the most common behaviors displayed with BDD patients:
- Camouflaging: This practice involves trying to hide parts of the body with clothing, makeup, or hand positioning.
- Comparing: Comparing involves looking at one’s own features and assessing how they appear next to others.
- Mirror checking: People who have BDD often repeatedly check their appearance in mirrors and windows.
- Excessive grooming: This practice involves checking hair or makeup repeatedly.
- Reassurance seeking: BDD patients often ask others how they look and/or insist that some aspects of their appearance are amiss.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you might want to consider talking to a doctor about whether you may be suffering from BDD.
1. People with BDD Aren’t Vain
If you’ve never known a person with BDD, you might assume individuals with this condition are simply vain or self-obsessed. However, psychiatrists are clear on the fact that this is not the case. In an interview in Seventeen magazine, Katharine Phillips, MD said, “People with BDD are preoccupied with perceived flaws in their appearance that appear minimal—or nonexistent—to others. And often, they’re worried they’ll be considered vain if they let anyone know how much they’re worrying about how they look.”
It’s important to remember that BDD patients have a serious mental illness that causes them to experience shame or embarrassment about a perceived flaw. In most cases, therapy and medication are required to alleviate the symptoms of BDD and help patients live fuller lives.
2. BDD Is Not an Eating Disorder
While people with BDD sometimes obsess about their weight, they aren’t suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. Body dysmorphic disorder is a separate condition involving intense fear about a particular aspect of one’s appearance. Patients with BDD might fixate on something as seemingly small as their eyebrows or toes. Left untreated, BDD can be a serious disorder that causes anxiety, stress, and depression.
3. Treatment Exists for BDD
Patients with BDD should know that treatment exists to help them alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Many BDD sufferers benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on teaching patients to identify irrational and negative thoughts and develop more healthful behaviors. Additionally, some individuals with BDD take antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications can help relieve the OCD symptoms associated with BDD.
4. Many BDD Patients Undergo Cosmetic Surgery
One of the dangers associated with BDD is a persistent desire to undergo cosmetic surgery. In an effort to correct their perceived defects or inadequacies, people with BDD may develop a plastic surgery addiction; in fact, an Eplasty study reveals that the disorder is 15 times more prevalent in patients seeking plastic surgery than it is in the general population. Unfortunately, the outcome of surgery tends to have little effect on the patient’s quality of life, with many still obsessing over their perceived flaws.
5. Suicide Is Prevalent in BDD Patients
It’s important to realize that the condition comes with a high suicide rate. In fact, according to the International OCD Foundation, BDD patients have a suicide rate that’s 45 times higher than that of the general population. If you or someone you love has BDD, seeking treatment is the best way to ensure that the condition doesn’t wreak havoc on your life.