You are not satisfied with what you see in the mirror? While the majority of people is somewhat bothered by the appearance of their not so perfect body, those who have body dysmorphic disorder can spend hours per day overthinking and obsessing over their flaws which often makes them engaging in excessive and unhealthy behaviors, so that these flaws are not recognized by other people.
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?
Body dysmorphic disorder, or also called body dysmorphia, is known as a mental health disorder where a person can’t stop focusing on one or more flaws in their appearance. These flaws usually appear minor or can’t be even perceived as “flaws” by others.
Flaws in the eye of the sufferer are in most cases their body size, body weight, weight proportion, muscle size, the shape of their face, the appearance of their skin and hair, and even the size and shape of their genitalia or breasts, and everything else that refers to their physical appearance.
Sufferers intensely think about their physical appearance, frequently check their body in the mirror, criticize themselves for not being pretty, slim or perfect enough, and try to get confirmation through weighing and measuring themselves. Furthermore, body dysmorphia sufferers often try to control their body and weight by obsessively counting calories, engaging in unhealthy over-exercising and fitness programs in order to burn as many calories as possible. All these repetitive behaviors often consume a lot of time, energy and concentration of a person that causes them a consistent and significant amount of stress. These circumstances make it hard for them to function optimally in their daily life.
In most cases, body dysmorphia occurs in combination with an eating disorder (such as binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia) or disordered eating behavior. In this particular case, it is often seen as a side-effect of the eating disorder or the disordered eating behavior, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. Body dysmorphia can also develop on its own or can even result in an eating disorder or disordered eating behavior.
There’s this wrong assumption in society that only women can develop body dysmorphia however it is of great importance to mention that men can suffer from body dysmorphic disorder too. The disorder in a male person often takes the form of a so-called “muscle dysmorphia“ which is also known as “bigorexia“. In this case, men describe symptoms of wanting to build more and more muscle mass that goes beyond the normal bodybuilding activity. Muscle dysmorphia includes behaviors such as overtraining in the gym, overconsumption of protein and supplements, preoccupation with a muscular body and weight-lifting, and in some cases even the abuse of steroids. Here it is important to add that also women can develop muscle dysmorphia.
Causes Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
There is at the moment no particular reason known why someone develops the disorder. Since everyone has their own and unique relationship with food and their body, also their causes of body dysmorphia are unique to them. Like with any other mental health condition, body dysmorphia can be a result of a combination of many different issues, such as a history of dieting and food restriction, environment, cultural and social influences, as well as genetics and negative relationships. This shows how complex body dysmorphic disorders are and for which reason I can only address the general causes in this article.
In the following I will present you different risk factors that researchers have found out to be the most common reasons for the development of body dysmorphia:
People who have very low self-esteem or self-confidence tend to be more fixated on their perceived flaws in their physical appearance. Which makes them putting a lot of attention on what other people say or think about them and their appearance. The assumption that the body and how they look is the most decisive factor of being worthy and liked by society contributes to them developing body dysmorphia.
2. Perfectionism Or Comparing Yourself With Others
Due to our daily consumption of social media content, we easily fall into the behavior of comparing our outward appearance to other people’s ones. Constantly seeing “perfect“ bodies and “perfect“ faces online can affect how we perceive our own body and our own face. We start desiring other people’s bodies and their outward appearance that may not even be realistically and healthily achievable.
Striving for perfectionism and regularly comparing our bodies, faces, lives, relationships, and jobs to other people’s ones, especially on social media, contributes tremendously to someone’s development of body dysmorphia.
Researchers have found out that body dysmorphic disorder is very common in someone whose family members also struggle with body dysmorphia or at least have a history of it. People whose family members currently suffer from the disorder or did it in their past are 7-12 times more likely to develop it.
4. Depression, Anxiety Or Other Mental Health Conditions
People who suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or OCD, are at risk of developing body dysmorphia. In this particular case, the disorder can be a side-effect of the mental health issue or even the cause of it.
5. Fear Of Being Alone
Many people in today’s world feel isolated and not accepted by society which results in them feeling lonely and abandoned. This often happens to people who are very shy and/or introverted. Worrying thoughts about not fitting into a group of people or not having (many) friends can also lead to feelings of being lonely and alone which in return can be the requirement of someone’s developing body dysmorphia.
Often times people believe they need to look a certain way in order to connect with other people, to build friendships, to go on dates and find a partner. These beliefs enhance the focus on their appearance and contribute to the development of the disorder.
6. Abuse Or Bullying
If someone experiences any form of abuse such as mental, emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, or any form of bullying, it can lead to the development of a negative self-image and body-image that may result in the obsession about their physical appearance. This occurs especially when someone was bullied or abused in their childhood and/or teenage years since during this phase of our life we are more sensitive in terms of looks and more receptive of outer negative influences.
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
There can be many possible symptoms of body dysmorphia. In this article I will provide you with the most common ones, however, please keep in mind that if you have any of these symptoms that doesn’t automatically mean you suffer from the disorder. The same is if you don’t experience any of these symptoms – that doesn’t mean that you don’t have it.
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder are:
- You don’t allow other people to take pictures of you
- You either try to avoid mirrors or you repeatedly check yourself in mirrors
- You repeatedly touch, check, or measure your flaws (such as weighing yourself on a scale, counting calories, etc)
- You wear excessive make-up and you feel uncomfortable leaving your house without covering your face with it
- You engage in excessive over-training and fitness programs
- You frequently change your clothes because you feel uncomfortable in your body and think other people could see your flaws
- When you are in public places you always have the feeling people are staring at your body and take special notice of your flaws
- You struggle with extreme mood fluctuations and often feel depressed, frustrated and disgusted by your appearance
- You struggle with eating (binge eating behavior, under-eating, emotional eating, yoyo-dieting, or eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia)
- You tend to avoid socializing with other people and you rather prefer staying at home or going out at night or when it is winter, where it is harder for people to see your body
- You obsessively shave your body and try to remove every hair that you find in an unwanted area of your body
- You often visit doctors and/or practitioners/professionals to check on the area of your body where you perceive your flaws (especially dermatologists, gynecologist, dieticians, personal trainers, etc)
- You undergo or have the desire to undergo medical procedures such as plastic surgeries in order to remove your flaws or to improve them
- You frequently ask other people about their thoughts on your look, your body and weight, however, you don’t believe them when they tell you that you look great
You may also be interested in:
Article about “5 Steps Of What To Do After A Binge”
Article about “The Setpoint Theory – What Happens After Dieting”
Video about “3 Lessons To Learn From Emotional Eating”
Video about “Sexuality And Eating Disorders”