Body dysmorphic disorder: A celebrity psychologist reveals what you need to know
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Currently, there is a global movement towards body positivity, recognizing its strong impact on mental health. Regardless of gender, most of us have experienced being judged for our appearance at some point in our lives.
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Whether it’s being labeled as too fat, too skinny, too dark, or too tall, the words of bullies can have lasting effects on our mental well-being, sometimes leading to body dysmorphic disorder.
Awareness about body positivity is growing, and brands are joining the movement. They are creating campaigns that feature models of all sizes and races, amplifying the message that everyone is beautiful.
The aim of the body positivity movement is to acknowledge the damaging effects of societal beauty standards on mental health. Society’s preconceived notions about beauty often make people believe that they need to “fix” themselves to gain acceptance. This pressure can contribute to the development of body dysmorphia.
Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder
According to Dr. Ishita Mukerji, a Clinical Director and Senior Psychologist at Kaleidoscope, body dysmorphic disorder, also known as dysmorphophobia, is characterized by an obsession with an imaginary or minor flaw in appearance. This obsession leads to significant distress and impairment in various areas of life. It is a severe disorder that greatly affects one’s quality of life.
Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder constantly think about their perceived flaws, which can cause embarrassment and anxiety. They may even avoid social interactions because of these insecurities. However, their perceived flaws are often barely noticeable or not visible to others.
Common Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Recent research suggests several factors that may contribute to the development of body dysmorphic disorder, including:
- Genetic factors and low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin
- Childhood or adolescent abuse and bullying
- Fear of rejection and low self-esteem
- Fear of isolation and loneliness
- Family history of mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and OCD
Recognizing the Symptoms
It is crucial to be aware of the symptoms associated with body dysmorphic disorder, such as:
- Preoccupation with minimal or non-existent imperfections in one’s appearance
- Constantly checking the mirror, touching, rubbing, or picking at perceived flaws
- Obsessively comparing oneself to others
- Seeking frequent consultations with dermatologists or cosmetic surgeons to “fix” the perceived flaw
- Experiencing significant distress that impairs daily functioning in social, occupational, and other areas of life
Seeking Help for Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder is crucial for seeking timely medical intervention. Combining psychotherapy and medication has proven effective in managing this disorder.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals challenge negative thoughts and adopt a more rational mindset. Medications, such as antidepressants, can aid in managing negative emotions. It is important to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, as they may exacerbate symptoms.
Engaging in physical activity and exercise can also be beneficial for managing stress and anxiety related to body dysmorphic disorder.
Seeking therapy is an essential form of self-care and personal growth. It is important to remember that reaching out to an expert is not a sign of weakness. The sooner you seek help and understand your symptoms, the better your chances of recovery. If you notice that your symptoms are interfering with your daily life and causing distressing thoughts, it is crucial to seek help to prevent the situation from worsening.
Ladies, it is time to embrace and accept ourselves, celebrating our unique beauty!