It is not unusual to worry – most of us do! Worrying about anything becomes a problem when it is constant, persistent and affects our day-to-day or quality of life.
Body dysmorphic disorder – also known as body dysmorphia or dysmorphophobia – is a health condition where a person worries a lot about perceived flaws in their body, which may or may not be noticeable to others. They may think a part or all of their body is too small, too large or deformed in some way. Body parts that are often complained about are nose, ears, breasts, mouth, hair, genitalia, muscle size/tone, complexion and skin appearance. BDD can affect men and women alike and although it is common among teenagers and young adults, it may persist beyond these age groups.
- Low self-esteem
- Criticism from parents, guardians, friends, spouses or mentors.
- Childhood neglect and abuse.
- Social media and societal expectations e.g. 6-pack physique, big breasts, light complexion, pointed nose etc.
- History of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
- Teenagers and young adults.
- Family history of BDD and/or OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder].
- Constant worry about specific areas of your body.
- Feeling self-conscious and having the belief that others are mocking your appearance.
- Spending a lot of time comparing your looks with others e.g. on social media.
- Looking at yourself in mirrors all the time or avoiding looking in mirrors.
- Spending a lot of time grooming, hairdressing, making-up, dressing up and skin picking.
- Always looking for reassurance about your appearance.
- Attempting to cover up in a bid to hide the ‘flaws’.
- Multiple cosmetic surgeries to try to fix the perceived flaws, even though it only brings about temporary satisfaction.
- Avoidance of social situations; isolation; lack of friends.
- Inability to function [work, school, home] as a result of the huge impact that the symptoms cause.
What can you do?
Take the COPS Test. See your doctor if you think that you have any of the symptoms.
People who suffer from BDD usually struggle to seek help; this is mostly because of the tendency to feel ashamed. Also, the constant worry brought about by the disorder may cause a lot of distress, thereby affecting one’s ability to cope with day-to-day living and relationships. This makes sufferers’ even more susceptible to depression, anxiety, OCD, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide. The importance of early recognition, treatment and follow up cannot be overemphasised. If help is not sought after, the symptoms are unlikely to resolve and may become worse.
- CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy]
- Antidepressant medications called SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors]
- Exercises and relaxation techniques
- Good support network/support groups such as the BDD Foundation
If treatment with both CBT and SSRIs do not improve symptoms after 12 weeks, there may be a need for a different type of SSRI or other types of antidepressants.
If you do not see any improvements in your symptoms, you may be referred to a mental health clinic or a hospital that specialises in body dysmorphic disorder.
Dr Adebola Adisa
* All of Naomi’s Parlour posts are edited by Ife Agboola.