Obsession With A Body Defect: Dysmorphophobia Causes & Treatments
Dysmorphophobia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is a mental health condition characterized by excessive anxiety and distress related to a perceived flaw in one’s appearance, which is either minor or not noticeable to others. People with BDD often have a distorted or magnified view of their appearance, leading to excessive grooming, seeking cosmetic procedures, and avoiding social situations due to shame or embarrassment. In severe cases, BDD can greatly impact a person’s quality of life, leading to significant functional impairment, depression, and suicide.
Symptoms of Dysmorphophobia
The symptoms of dysmorphophobia vary from person to person but typically include the following:
- Preoccupation with a perceived defect in appearance, which can be related to any part of the body (e.g., skin, hair, nose, face, etc.).
- Distorted or magnified view of the perceived defect.
- Repetitive behaviors related to the perceived defect, such as checking the appearance in mirrors, excessive grooming, seeking cosmetic procedures, or comparing oneself to others.
- Significant anxiety, shame, or embarrassment related to the perceived defect.
- Avoidance of social situations due to shame or embarrassment.
- Significant distress or impairment in daily functioning, including work, school, or personal relationships.
Causes of Dysmorphophobia
The exact cause of dysmorphophobia is not known, but several factors have been associated with its development, including:
- Biological factors, such as imbalances in neurotransmitters that regulate mood and anxiety.
- Psychological factors, such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, and negative experiences related to appearance.
- Cultural and social factors, such as exposure to unrealistic beauty standards through media.
- Family history, as BDD has been shown to run in families.
Diagnosis of Dysmorphophobia
Diagnosis of dysmorphophobia is based on a comprehensive assessment of symptoms, including a thorough medical and psychological history and a clinical evaluation by a mental health professional. To diagnose BDD, the following criteria must be met:
- Preoccupation with a perceived defect in appearance, not accounted for by another medical condition.
- Repetitive behaviors or mental acts related to the perceived defect.
- Significant distress or impairment in daily functioning.
- The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Treatment of Dysmorphophobia
Treatment for dysmorphophobia typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressant medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help reduce anxiety and depression associated with BDD. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals with BDD challenge their negative thoughts and behaviors related to appearance.
In severe cases, inpatient treatment may be necessary. It is important to seek professional help as soon as possible, as left untreated, dysmorphophobia can lead to significant functional impairment and quality of life.
Dysmorphophobia is a complex mental health condition that can greatly impact an individual’s daily life. With proper treatment, including medication and psychotherapy, people with BDD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. If you or a loved one is struggling with dysmorphophobia, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.