June 25, 2023
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Body dysmorphia: Symptoms & therapy treatments
Self-esteem can be complicated. It’s not always easy to look in the mirror and be completely happy with what you see. But while some people may be able to improve their confidence over time, others struggle to see past their perceived flaws.
Body dysmorphia is a condition that makes you feel unhappy with your body’s appearance to the point where you spend extended periods of time obsessing over it. It can take a toll on not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of the disorder and potential treatment options.
Read on to learn about the ins and outs of body dysmorphia, signs to be aware of, and therapy treatment options that can help.
What is body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder, also known as body dysmorphia or BDD, is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes intrusive thoughts about a small body defect, even if the defect doesn’t exist. It’s a mental health disorder that causes these thoughts to engross your mind and result in hours of trying to correct the perceived flaws.
The flaw becomes prominent to you and can cause severe emotional distress. It can also interfere with your daily life because you may feel shame and anxiety that can prevent you from forming social and personal connections.
It can co-occur with other mental health disorders and behaviors, including:
How common is body dysmorphia?
This type of obsessive-compulsive disorder affects up to 2.4% of the general population, which is approximately 1 in 50 people. About 2.5% of males and 2.2% of females struggle with body dysmorphia.
Struggling with your self-esteem and self-image usually stems from puberty when you start to become aware of your body and how it’s changing. Body dysmorphic disorder is mostly common for adolescents ages 12 to 13, and many people with the disorder experience onset symptoms by the time they’re 18 years old.
10 signs and symptoms of body dysmorphia
If you’re concerned about your body image to the point where it’s causing you persistent distress, there are signs of body dysmorphia that you can look out for. By identifying these signs, you can get started on the treatment you need to improve your mental health and self-esteem.
Ten symptoms of body dysmorphia are:
- Being preoccupied with a physical flaw that others perceive as minor or can’t see
- Believing that the perceived flaw makes you unattractive or look “misshapen”
- Thinking others are mocking the perceived flaw
- Trying to hide the perceived flaw with clothes or makeup
- Consistently comparing your appearance to others
- Having consistent behaviors that try to fix the perceived flaw, such as grooming or skin picking
- Constantly looking at your reflection or avoiding mirrors completely
- Avoiding social situations
- Having cosmetic procedures done that don’t provide satisfactory results
- Constantly asking for reassurance from others about your physical appearance
Treatment options for body dysmorphia
If you’re struggling with body dysmorphic disorder, it can feel like you’ll never stop obsessing over your body’s imperfections, whether they are real or imaginary. But there are ways that you can help decrease those anxious thoughts and feel more confident in your body.
Therapy is one of the best ways to treat body dysmorphia, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy, known as CBT, can help adjust the negative thoughts and behaviors that cause your body dysmorphia symptoms. By recognizing how your emotions, thoughts and behaviors influence one another, you can change your thinking process for healthier outcomes. It can also help you learn alternative methods when faced with the urge to perform a behavior like checking a mirror or asking a friend for reassurance.
In addition, there are medications that a mental health provider may recommend to help manage your body dysmorphia symptoms. They may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. They’re antidepressants that can interfere with serotonin, a brain chemical that can contribute to body dysmorphic disorder symptoms.
Lightfully Behavioral Health helps treat your body dysmorphia symptoms
If you’re constantly having negative thoughts that lead to hours spent applying makeup to a minor flaw on your face, you might be struggling with body dysmorphia. Fortunately, it’s possible to manage your body dysmorphia symptoms and improve your self-esteem.
At Lightfully, we offer four programs that can help you address body dysmorphic disorder: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.
Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward treating your body dysmorphic disorder, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.