If you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, these three words can ruin your summer. After all, it’s hard to hide, cover up, and/or add more clothes when the temperature rises and you want to feel the sun on your skin. But what exactly is body dysmorphic disorder?
What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?
According to Mayo Clinic, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others; but you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) or dysmorphophobia affects about 1.7% to 2.4% of the population, or between 5 million to 10 million people in the US alone.
Commonly referred to as body dysmorphia, BDD is a complex disorder associated with one’s constant concerns about not having a perfect body. People who have body dysmorphic disorder think about their real or perceived flaws unchecked and for several hours each and every day. Examples include (but are NOT limited to) perceptions that you have:
- An oversized or crooked nose
- An uneven smile or bad teeth
- Eyes that are too large or too small
- Breasts that are too large, small, or misshapen
- An obesity problem
- Feet that are too large
- Hair that is too thin
- Any perceived imperfection on your body.
And though it is absolutely normal to fret about our imperfections (after all, no one is perfect), if you have BDD, these worries and concerns are so intense they can actually interfere with your daily life, and in some cases actually become debilitating.
That’s because people who have body dysmorphic disorder think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day. They can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe people who tell them that they look fine.
It happens to varying degrees in ways that we never truly realize.
What Does It Sound Like When Someone Has Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
You start showing your friend some images from your recent vacation and your friend tells you, “That’s such a great picture of you!” Despite her earnest and real impression, all you see is how thick your waste is, or that you seem to be the heaviest person in a group picture. You see only your perceived flaws – even the ones that are barely perceptible.
In some cases, BDD causes thoughts that are so severe they cause emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning. People with severe body dysmorphia may even miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws.
How Body Dysmorphic Disorder Can Ruin Your Summer Plans
Those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder go through great lengths during the summer to cover their perceived flaws. Covering up is hard to do in a season where we spend more time out of doors (i.e. out of the house), in the sun, and in warmer weather. Compound that with the typical summer activities, and it is a waking nightmare for those suffering from BDD.
- Try covering your oversized hips in a bathing suit
- Try hiding your ugly toes in a pair of sandals
- Try styling your hair to cover a flaw on your face when all you want to do is pull your hair back into a ponytail to avoid overheating
- Try covering your blemishes in makeup and then swim in a pool
No doubt about it. When you have BDD, it can ruin your summer.
The Relationship Between BDD and Eating Disorders
You may think if you are obsessed with being overweight, you are suffering from BDD, but that is not always the case. That being said, BDD and eating disorders share many symptoms, such as low self-esteem.
If you are preoccupied and intensely focused on being “too fat” or overweight, you may exhibit BDD behaviors such as checking your image over and over again in a mirror or any reflective surface or spending a lot of time trying to cover up or camouflage your body. Should this obsession lead to profound changes in eating habits, a connection may be possible. Researchers have estimated that as many as 12% of people with body dysmorphic disorder also have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
But the relationship is not that simple. It is critical for you to talk to a professional to determine what you are actually experiencing and of course, to help you with a viable and hopeful treatment plan.
Are Treatments Available for Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
While there is no cure for body dysmorphic disorder; treatment is available and can include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), as well as group or family therapy.
Getting Help for BDD
If you or someone you know is struggling with BDD, we can help. Our approach at New Hope Counseling and Wellness Center is to treat the individual and not the condition. If you, or someone you know, appears to be obsessively preoccupied with a perceived flaw in their appearance, please know that treatment is available.
- Trust that there is HOPE for you through counseling and therapy.
- Therapy could benefit you in amazing ways.
- Through counseling and therapy, we will work together to identify your trauma and help you to develop a new understanding and connection to your feelings, allowing you to experience happiness.
Our team of specialists works with teens, adults, and families. We will develop a personalized mental health treatment plan for you or your loved one. Contact us today. You are not alone.