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What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder and How Can Symptoms be Managed?

Most of us have something that we don’t like about our appearance. Maybe we believe our nose is too big, or our hair is too frizzy. For most people, these imperfections are easy to ignore. They’re what make us us. And, in a way, there is perfection in the imperfections.


But for people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), sometimes called body dysmorphia, these perceived flaws are all they can think about. BDD is a mental disorder that causes people to fixate on one or more perceived defects in their appearance. These defects can be real or imagined, and they can be minor or major. People with BDD often spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others, worrying about what other people think of them, and seeking reassurance. They may also engage in compulsive behaviors, such as excessive grooming, skin picking, and dieting. These compulsions are tied to the disorder and are symptoms of it.


Commonly found in young teens and adults, when a person has BDD they find flaws in themselves that others may not notice. Often, they can point out parts of their appearance that no one else can see or understand. These thoughts are often obsessive and are rarely far from their thoughts. A person dealing with body dysmorphia may frequently check their reflection, consistently fidget with their outfit and start to depend on cosmetic procedures to fix the perceived flaw. Undergoing cosmetic surgery can become addicting.

Understandably so, body dysmorphic disorder can have an extreme wear and tear on a person’s mental well-being and their self-esteem. It may also come between relationships, as someone with body dysmorphia may become so embarrassed about their appearance that they avoid social situations. Social media also adds to the intensity of body dysmorphia by creating an outlet where folks constantly compare themselves to others. For someone with BDD, looking at fitness and beauty influencers may exacerbate their symptoms and cause them to stress even more over their appearance.


If left untreated, BDD can also lead to other health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. If you feel like you have been exhibiting signs of body dysmorphia, it is a great idea to connect with your doctor.


Many of us have loved ones that may be fighting body dysmorphia, so how can we support them? Just like with most other mental health issues, being there as support and as someone willing to listen is an excellent first step. Another great thing to practice is redirecting the conversation away from any topics that might be focusing on the person’s insecurities. Also, try to avoid talking about your own securities around the person. We’re often our own worst critics but try to practice keeping those negative comments to a minimum when around someone suffering with this disorder. It will help them to feel more comfortable and it might also build your overall confidence to quiet negative thoughts about yourself! Finally, you can encourage your loved one to seek professional help so that they can be on their path towards healing.


If you’re unhappy with your body, know that you’re not alone. It can be tough to feel good about yourself. You might feel like you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never be happy with the way you look.


It’s important to remember that everyone is different, and that there is no “perfect” body type. Your body is unique, and it’s something to be celebrated!


If you’re struggling with poor body image, there are a few things you can do to start feeling better about yourself:


1. Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. It can be really helpful to talk to someone who understands and can offer support. This should be confused with someone who simply agrees when it’s unwarranted. This is just someone who can listen and offer advice for easing symptoms.


2. Focus on the things you like about yourself. It’s easy to focus on the things you don’t like but try to remember the things you do like. What are your favorite features?


3. Do something to take care of your body. Eating well and exercising can help you feel better about yourself.


4. Find a hobby or activity that makes you feel good. Doing something you enjoy can help you feel better about yourself, even if it’s not related to your body.


5. Talk to a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling. They can help you work through your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms.


BDD can be a very debilitating disorder. It can cause social isolation, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. If you think you might have BDD, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. With treatment, you can learn to cope with your disorder and live a fulfilling life.

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