Here, you can find out everything you wanted to know about body dysmorphic disorder (or at least we hope so!). You can click (or touch) each of the headings below to find out more about specific aspects of the condition.
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There is such an emphasis on how we look in these days of celebrity culture, that our own self image can sometimes take an unnecessary battering. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) gives sufferers anxiety about their body, or a particular part of it. When used in context of body-building, it is sometimes referred to as 'bigorexia'.
To other people, their body may seem perfectly 'normal', but those with BDD will not see it in the same way; for example, a small, barely noticeable scar will be perceived as a major disfiguration or muscles may never seem big enough or toned sufficiently. Because of this, they begin to develop routines that impact on their day-to-day life, such as excessive use of mirrors, picking at the skin with damaging results or over-exercising.
BDD isn't the same as being vain or self-obsessive about your looks. Those living with BDD simply view their body differently to other people and, as such, can spend an excessive amount of time looking in the mirror, comparing themselves to others and trying to conceal the 'problematic' body part in question wherever possible. They can also feel like they are too fat, or too thin, or that their body parts are out of proportion or symmetrically unbalanced.
Common causes of anxiety with those suffering with BDD include their facial features or particular areas of the body, such as stomach or genitals. In extreme cases, this can drive people with BDD towards unnecessary plastic / cosmetic surgery.
These feelings can be so strong they often don't seek help for fear of being judged or passed off as being too vain. Feelings can become so strong that they can go on to develop depression and even suicidal thoughts.
People with body dysmorphic disorder will :-
- Be preoccupied with their physical appearance and become EXTREMELY self-conscious.
- Spend excessive time examining themselves in the mirror or, in some cases, avoid mirrors all together.
- Strongly believe that their body, or part of it, is abnormal despite reassurances to the contrary.
- Constantly seek assurances from others about their body.
- Compare themselves with others.
- Believe that other people are negatively judging them.
- Avoid social situations and can become housebound.
Those with BDD can obsess about their whole body or a particular part of it. This can include:
- The face, or particular features such as the nose, chin or the condition of the skin itself (acne / wrinkles).
- Hair - whether it's thinning or balding even when it's not.
- Breasts / pectorals or genitals.
- Muscle size and tone.
The cause, as is often the case with mental illness, is unclear. Some believe it to be a genetic disorder, while others think an imbalance in the brain's chemistry is to blame. Bloody brain chemistry!
BDD is often (but not always) triggered by abuse or bullying. It can also affect those with already low self-esteem making them become more isolated or alone. It can also come about through the struggle to compete with others who they see as 'perfect'. This is particularly common in walks of life that focus on the physical form, such as modelling or bodybuilding. Often initially non-threatening thought patterns associated with these causes can ultimately lead to body dysmorphic disorder.
If you suffer with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.
Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with BDD with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.