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What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

There are times when people look in the mirror and can be happy with their appearance, for some though, they may look in the mirror and become upset by and then fixated on a particular aspect of their appearance: a pimple, a scar, or a freckle. Some people may wish that their hair or eyes were a different colour, that their hair was a different length, curly or straight. Thoughts and worries surrounding their appearance, and perceived flaw, can continue and become a time-consuming leading to anxiety, stress, and self-consciousness. When awareness of how ones’ body is or isn't continues and then leads to a problem in your daily life, this may then become a diagnosable mental health disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). 


When thinking about the difference between body dysmorphic disorder and just being generally unhappy with your appearance, there are a few important differences to note. Firstly, it's important to know that the appearance of people with (BDD) look normal to others. That is, others do not readily notice the perceived flaws, and the person with BDD doesn’t realise that others do not perceive the flaw rather they think others see it [the flaw] in the same way they do. Another diagnostic difference is that someone who has BDD would spend at least one hour per day thinking about a perceived appearance flaw and this preoccupation interferes with their day-to-day functioning and leads to emotional distress. 


Typical Focus of Body Dysmorphic Disorder: 

Quite often it is the head and facial area that are often the focus in BDD, for example, nose, skin, eyes, face size or shape. This is not to say that people cannot fixate on any part of their body (e.g. arms, legs, stomach, hips, weight and build). On average people with body dysmorphic disorder can be concerned with up to five-to-seven different parts of their body, there are however some people that worry about just one body part or body area whereas other people may dislike virtually everything about their appearance.  


How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treated? 

The goal of treatment is to improve the quality of life and overall functioning of those with body dysmorphic disorder while progressively decreasing a preoccupation with one's appearance and the associated distress from the appearance concerns. Further to this, is a treatment goal to reduce any compulsive behaviours that may also be associated with the disorder. 


There are psychological therapy and medication treatment options for those with body dysmorphic disorder. Cognitive behaviour therapy has been shown to improve body dysmorphic disorder symptoms with both individual therapy and group therapy; importantly though, the therapy must be tailored to the unique symptoms of the body dysmorphia. A type of medication called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) is also a medication that has been found to improve the disorder in a majority of people.  

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