Body Dysmorphic Disorder Articles
People with BDD obsess over how they look and are preoccupied with body image to an unreasonable extent. They often look in mirrors and ask other people to reassure them that they are attractive many times. They engage in repetitive behaviors to make sure that they are covering what they perceive to be a flaw that makes them “ugly.”
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, commonly referred to as BDD, is a severe disorder that causes an individual to become extremely fixated on a perceived flaw (or multiple flaws) in their physical appearance. A person with BDD has a warped perception of how they appear. It is not the same as lacking confidence in physical appearance. We all feel unsure about our physical appearance at times and we are all subject to being self-critical of our perceived flaws. For a person with BDD, however, these perceived flaws and deformities are so severe and alarming that it impairs the individual's ability to function in their daily life. It can be an extremely debilitating condition, especially if it is left untreated.
BDD is About More Than Your Body
In our society, it is hard to see our bodies as they are. Women and men alike are exposed to damaging body standards on a daily basis. Media exposure to a limited amount of body shapes and sizes can be detrimental to someone with BDD. For example, only seeing thin women in media or seeing women with visible abdominal muscles can set an arbitrary standard. This is unrealistic for most women. In fact, an extremely low body fat percentage can disrupt the menstrual cycle, your physical health, and mental health. It’s not that these body types are “wrong” in any way. Some people are completely healthy with these body types - it’s more that we aren’t exposed to a wider variety of bodies, which can warp our self-perception. Beauty standards like these can be a contributing factor to the development of BDD. Despite the name, Body Dysmorphic Disorder doesn’t just focus on your body shape or size. Many people with BDD fixate on perceived flaws on their face as well, such as their nose. A person with BDD may feel that their nose is deformed and that they cannot show their face to the rest of the world. This can limit their ability to leave the house lead to agoraphobia.
Connection to Eating Disorders
It is very common for eating disorders to coincide with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate. People of all genders, ethnicities, ages, income levels, and body sizes, can develop a life-threatening eating disorder. Over 30 million people in the United States alone are suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not limited to Anorexia and Bulimia. Other eating disorders include Binge Eating Disorder, excessive exercise, and an obsessive need for eating healthy. Excessive exercise can be a sign - or even the main symptom - of several eating disorders. It tends to be praised in our society, despite the damage that it can cause to a person’s body. BDD paired with an eating disorder contributes to the detrimental cycle of malnutrition and can cause a person’s self-perception to become even more inaccurate. Both conditions can cause a person to “body check” by looking in the mirror excessively throughout the day. Rituals and behaviors like this can become highly intrusive. Comorbid conditions aside from eating disorders are frequently diagnosed in individuals with BDD as well. These conditions can include but are not limited to anxiety disorders and depression or other mood disorders. Whether you are suffering from BDD on its own or a comorbid disorder as well, you don’t have to go through this alone.
Mental health treatment for BDD is becoming increasingly available and shows success in treating the condition. Online therapy is convenient. It allows you to meet with your therapist in the privacy of your own home. It can be especially helpful for those with BDD who have become so impaired by the condition that they find it hard to leave their homes. There’s something intimate about online therapy; it allows you to feel safe. If you suspect that you suffer from BDD, body image disturbances, an eating disorder, or any other mental health condition, there is a database of mental health professionals on BetterHelp that are equipped to help you manage these conditions and develop coping skills. Over time, you will be able to see yourself more accurately and live your life to your fullest potential.