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As the warmth of summer approaches, the spotlight on body image seems to intensify, making body dysmorphia more prevalent than ever. Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is a mental health condition characterised by obsessive thoughts about perceived flaws in one’s appearance. It affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, and it can profoundly impact their daily lives. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what body dysmorphia is, its relevance to the aesthetics industry, its symptoms and more.

What is Body Dysmorphia? 

Body dysmorphia is a psychological disorder where individuals become excessively preoccupied with perceived defects or flaws in their physical appearance. These flaws may be minor or imagined, but to the person experiencing BDD, they can cause severe distress and interfere with their ability to function in daily life. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of body dysmorphia can vary widely from person to person, but common signs may include: 

Obsessive focus on perceived flaws

Spending hours each day thinking about or checking the perceived flaws in the mirror. 

Frequent mirror checking or grooming rituals

Constantly examining the perceived flaws or engaging in excessive grooming behaviours to try to conceal or fix them. 

Avoidance of social situations

Avoiding social situations or activities that may draw attention to the perceived flaws. 

Young woman sitting on sofa looking depressed - body dysmorphia can cause an individual to become depressed or feel down

Seeking reassurance

Frequently seeking reassurance from others about their appearance, but never feeling satisfied with the responses. 

Comparison with others

Constantly comparing one’s appearance with others and feeling inferior or inadequate as a result. 

Body dysmorphia & aesthetic treatments

It’s not surprising that those who suffer with BDD will seek aesthetic interventions to improve any flaws or issues they perceive with their physical appearance. It is a mental issue, but those with BDD may not see it that way, they will often seek help from aesthetic practitioners as they think it is a viable solution. In fact, studies say that 70% of people with BDD had sought cosmetic procedures.

As a practitioner, it is important that you are able to identify a patient with BDD. Although an aesthetic procedure can physically correct a flaw, patient satisfaction is only temporary, as BDD obsessions can shift to other body parts and symptoms can worsen. A cycle will be created and if the cycle is not stopped, these patients may repeatedly seek surgery and show signs of addiction to cosmetic surgery due to the impulsive nature of BDD itself.

When an individual with BDD receives an aesthetic procedure and are not satisfied with the outcome or results,  it can cause feelings of anger or aggression towards the practitioner too.

Causes of body dysmorphia

The exact cause of body dysmorphia is not fully understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Some potential causes and risk factors include: 

Genetics

Individuals with a family history of body dysmorphia or other mental health disorders may be more prone to developing BDD. 

Brain chemistry

Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, may play a role in the development of BDD. 

Traumatic experiences

Past experiences, such as bullying, teasing, or criticism about one’s appearance, can contribute to the development of body dysmorphia. 

Woman crying close up - body dysmorphia can cause feelings of sadness

Cultural and societal influences

Pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media and social media can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and fuel body dysmorphia. 

Treatment options

Treatment for body dysmorphia typically involves a combination of therapy and medication: 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most common form of therapy used to treat BDD. It helps individuals challenge negative thought patterns and develop healthier ways of thinking about their appearance. 

Medication

Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with BDD. 

Support groups

Joining support groups or therapy groups with others who have experienced similar struggles can provide valuable encouragement and understanding. 

Woman upset at group therapy and being comforted - group therapy can be beneficial as treatment for body dysmorphia

Seeking help 

If you or someone you know is struggling with body dysmorphia, it’s essential to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. With the right support and treatment, individuals with BDD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. 

Here are some links that you might find helpful if you are suffering with BDD yourself or want to help someone else:

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