Getting Help for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The vast majority of people are concerned about their appearance. This makes sense since appearance can have a significant impact on how others view you. Most people keep their concerns about their looks in perspective and continue to lead functional lives. However, you can become excessively preoccupied with how others view your body. You can also focus excessively on your self-perceived body flaws. If these things significantly damage your ability to function, you have body dysmorphia. This condition is also known as body dysmorphic disorder.

You can recover from body dysmorphia. Proper treatment helps you reestablish a healthy perspective on your physical appearance. Early detection and body dysmorphia treatment are key. The longer you have the condition the worse it can get. Effective recovery plans are customized to suit your individual needs.

What Is Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, belongs to the same mental illness category as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. People with BDD become fixated on what they consider to be defects in their appearance. These defects may be relatively minor. They may also be completely unnoticeable to other people.

As a result of their concerns, people affected by the disorder engage in certain kinds of repetitive behaviors. Examples of these behaviors include:

  • Grooming yourself
  • Checking your appearance in a mirror
  • Asking others about how you look

All of these behaviors are normal and functional when done occasionally. However, if you have BDD, they may take up hours of your daily routine. People with the disorder feel distressed by their body preoccupations and repetitive behaviors. They also lose at least some of their ability to remain functional and lead productive lives.

Some people with BDD take steps to correct their perceived body defects. This can lead to a repeated cycle of plastic surgery or other cosmetic procedures. These actions may make you feel better for a while. But, as a rule, such positive feelings are only temporary. Without proper treatment, your body-related distress will eventually return. In most cases, this distress worsens over time.

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Signs and Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

How can you tell if you have BDD? Only a doctor or mental health specialist can make a formal diagnosis. However, you may notice potential signs or symptoms of body dysmorphia in yourself other others. Examples of these possible indicators include:

  • Extreme preoccupation with a minor or unnoticeable physical flaw
  • A strong sense of deformity or ugliness as a result of your perceived flaw
  • Focusing on efforts to hide your perceived defects from others
  • Continually making physical comparisons between yourself and others
  • Needing frequent reassurance from others regarding your appearance
  • Believing that others are negatively focused on your perceived flaws
  • Isolating yourself to avoid the gaze of others

If you have BDD, you may focus your attention defects you perceive in particular body areas. Common areas of fixation include your:

  • Face or specific parts of your face
  • Breasts
  • Muscles
  • Skin
  • Hair

You may be at least partially aware that your body preoccupations are not based in reality. However, despite this fact, your preoccupations remain in effect. People with BDD may also completely believe in the reality of their body self-perceptions. Generally speaking, people in this second category experience more severe symptoms.

Body Dysmorphia Treatment

What Causes Body Dysmorphia Disorder

Research shows that there is likely no single cause of body dysmorphia. Instead, multiple factors work together in any one person. Identified risk factors for BDD include:

  • A family history of the disorder
  • Exposure to bullying, abuse or neglect as a child
  • Peer or social pressure
  • Cultural norms regarding body appearance
  • Having a perfectionist personality
  • The existence of a prior mental illness

Roughly 1% of all Americans are affected by body dysmorphia. Men develop the condition just as often as women.

How Is Body Dysmorphia Diagnosed

The American Psychiatric Association sets the official criteria for diagnosing BDD. Doctors and mental health specialists then follow these criteria.

To be diagnosed, you must be preoccupied with minor or imperceptible body flaws. In addition, you must experience repetitive, damaging thoughts or behaviors as a result of this preoccupation. The effects of the disorder must also significantly impair important parts of your life or daily routine. Finally, you must not have another condition that is more likely to cause your symptoms. This is necessary to distinguish BDD from an eating disorder.

A person diagnosed with BDD may have muscle dysmorphia. This is a subtype of the illness marked by a preoccupation with your musculature or body build. It can occur whether or not you are also preoccupied with other areas of your body.

In addition, doctors note the level of self-awareness you have regarding your condition. There are three possible levels:

  • Good or fair insight
  • Poor insight
  • Lack of insight

This is important for determining the severity of your BDD.

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Dual Diagnosis and Dysmorphia

If you have BDD, there is a good chance you also have other serious mental health issues. This overlap of conditions is known as dual diagnosis. Your body dysmorphia may arise before another illness. The reverse is also possible. Specific conditions known to affect people with BDD include:

  • Anorexia and other eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorders and other anxiety disorders

To recover your well-being, you must receive treatment that addresses each of your illnesses.

Body dysmorphic treatment

How is Body Dysmorphia Treated

Body dysmorphia treatment plans commonly include both medication and therapy.

Medication for Body Dysmorphia Treatment

There is no medication designed to treat BDD. Instead, doctors take medications designed for other purposes and adapt them to BDD treatment. Antidepressants called SSRIs are a typical choice. They work by helping you control behaviors and ways of thinking that keep BDD active. For specific kinds of symptoms, you may also receive a different medication.

CBT and Perceptual Disorders

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is now widely used in body dysmorphia treatment. This form of psychotherapy provides benefits such as:

  • Explaining the negative impact of your current thoughts and behaviors
  • Giving you ways to challenge these thoughts and behaviors when they arise
  • Helping you find creative ways to cope with your repetitive BDD urges
  • Showing you how to make wider, supportive changes in your behavior

All CBT treatments are highly individualized. Your therapist will focus on addressing your specific needs and symptoms. Effective therapy often includes other members of your family. For teens in particular, this family involvement can have major benefits.

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Residential Treatment for Body Dysmorphia

If you have severe BDD, you may begin your recovery in a psychiatric hospital. However, most people begin treatment in a residential program or an outpatient program. An outpatient program may be sufficient to address mild-to-moderate dysmorphia. But residential care may be more suitable if you are moderately-to-severely affected. You may also benefit from residential treatment if you:

  • Do not have a home environment that supports an effective recovery
  • Have another mental illness in addition to BDD
  • Need frequent or ongoing help to manage your symptoms

Your doctor can help you make an appropriate choice between your available options.

How Can I Recover From Body Dysmorphia: Additional Steps

You can take additional steps to enhance the benefits of BDD treatment. Recommended actions include:

  • Educating yourself about the impact of BDD
  • Taking your treatment plan seriously and follow it
  • Maintaining a BDD journal
  • Heeding any signs that your symptoms may be active
  • Staying away from substance use
  • Exercising regularly or taking part in other physical activity
  • Keeping socially engaged
  • Learning how to effectively manage stress
  • Keeping your long-term recovery goals in mind

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Seek Body Dysmorphia Treatment at Emerald Isle

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition related to OCD. It damages your ability to accurately perceive your body. It also triggers thoughts and behaviors that support this distorted perception. Men and women are equally affected by BDD. The condition affects about 1% of the U.S. population.

There is no one reason for developing BDD. Instead, a range of factors play a role. These factors may include your genetic background. They may also include things such as societal pressures and childhood bullying. The illness is often accompanied by other mental health concerns. Such combined cases are known as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis recovery must provide help for both conditions affecting you.

Antidepressants are often used to help people with BDD. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also common. Some people need to be hospitalized for severe body dysmorphia. But outpatient and residential care are more typical. Outpatient care can help you recover from mild-to-moderate symptoms. Residential care is often needed for more serious cases of BDD.

You can do things on your own to ease the effects of dysmorphia. These actions are not enough to help you fully recover. But in combination with treatment, they can potentially make your recovery easier.

Need help for body dysmorphia? The professionals at Emerald Isle are standing by. We provide a full array of mental health services. However seriously you are affected, we have suitable options for your situation. All of our BDD treatment plans are customized. This individual approach keeps the focus on you at all times. In this way, it helps ensure that you receive the best possible care. For more information on dysmorphia recovery, just call us today.