The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
We all experience low self-esteem or body image issues at one point or another. How can we not when we are constantly bombarded with edited images and glamorized models that pressure us to contort to unrealistic beauty standards? However, most people find healthy ways to improve their bodies or learn the important skill of self-love. But for people with body dysmorphic disorder, a healthy body image and self-love are much harder to achieve.
Body dysmorphic disorder occurs when people become obsessed with their flaws and think they are unworthy or ugly as a result. As a result, they may isolate themselves for fear of being seen or resort to extreme, extensive, and even dangerous means to fix their flaws. Though few people know about this condition, it can be debilitating and may affect millions of people. Read on to learn more about this condition and how it may be affecting you.
What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Though everyone sometimes becomes preoccupied with flaws on their body, people with body dysmorphic disorder preoccupations interfere with their lives. They often obsess over a tiny flaw that is insignificant or that others cannot see at all. However, they believe the flaw makes them “ugly,” and this perception affects their social life and self-worth.
Often the thoughts that come with body dysmorphic disorder are difficult to control. They can lead to obsessive and ritualistic behaviors such as skin picking or looking in the mirror often. They may become so obsessed with the flaw that they isolate themselves for fear of the defect being seen or will live with extremely low self-worth. This can affect their social lives, career/school, and interactions with family.
Though many factors can influence the development of body dysmorphic disorder, there are a few common themes. For example, many people with this condition experience trauma, severe criticism from a peer or family member over their defect, or are susceptible to the harsh beauty standards set by society. Furthermore, many people with this disorder may also live with other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, which can worsen the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder. And though there isn’t conclusive evidence on the causes of this condition, it seems that genetics and environment may play key roles as well.
What Body Dysmorphic Disorder Looks Like
Any flaw or defect can be the source of body dysmorphic disorder. However, some defects are more common than others. Some of the most common obsessions for people with body dysmorphic disorder include:
- Skin problems such as acne, rosacea, wrinkles, or scars
- Hair, either on the head or body
- Facial features, such as the size of the nose or eyes
- Breast shape and size
- Penis size
A common misconception is that body dysmorphic disorder, and eating disorders are the same or overlap. However, they are different. People with eating disorders focus on their weight or body shape, while those with body dysmorphic disorder obsess over a particular body part or specific flaw.
Symptoms may vary depending on the defect that a person is obsessing over. However, there are some common themes and signs across all body dysmorphic disorder cases. Some of these signs include:
- Repetitive, time-consuming behaviors that affect the defect, such as obsessively looking in a mirror, skin picking, or trying to cover the perceived defect
- Isolating themselves to hide the defect
- Feeling self-conscious
- Constantly asking for reassurance about the defect or their appearance in general
- Consulting with medical specialists to improve their appearance
What To Do If You Live With Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Though body dysmorphic disorder can be chronic and difficult to treat, many people recover and love their bodies again. However, successful treatment includes hard work and a good support system.
The best way to treat this condition is by seeking the help of a licensed counselor or other mental health professional. They can help you address the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to this condition and rewire your thinking to develop more positive and healthy thoughts about your body.
However, this work will require mindfulness, which is the hard effort necessary for treatment. Mindfulness skills can be developed with a therapist or on your own. However, without it, it will be difficult to identify the thoughts that are worsening the condition and rewire them with new, healthy thoughts.
Group therapy is also a great option for treatment. Having the support of other patients can help you see that you are not alone. The social connection can also help ease any feelings of isolation or depression.
This is also why connecting with your support network of friends and family is essential. Voicing your insecurities and struggles to people you trust and love will help you find foundation and support during this challenging time.
Finally, in some cases, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication. Though no medication can directly treat body dysmorphic disorder, some prescriptions can ease the feelings of depression and anxiety that come with it.
Final Thoughts On Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Though many people dismiss body dysmorphic disorder as something unimportant or just low self-esteem, the truth is that it is a far more serious condition. It can lead a person to try expensive and dangerous treatment just to make their body look a certain way. Therefore, if you live with this condition, seek out help immediately so you can learn to love your body, flaws and all.
For more information on body dysmorphic disorder, you can find more resources and articles at the link below: