Body Dysmorphic Disorder

There are several mental illnesses associated with our view of ourselves. They range from eating disorders such as anorexia, and bulimia to BDD, or body dysmorphic disorder.  Each of these has dire consequences if gone untreated, with BDD being one of the more difficult ones to cope with.  BDD is defined as a chronic mental illness in which the sufferer is obsessed with a perceived physical flaw in his or her appearance to the point of wanting to avoid being seen by anyone.

This disease affects 1 % of the population worldwide, both men and women. It’s causes are not really understood and as an illness recognized by the APA, American Psychiatric Association, it is relatively new having been formally acknowledged in 1987.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive exercise, grooming, skin picking or hair plucking in a constant and unsuccessful effort to fix the flaw.
  • Preoccupation with physical appearance coupled with extreme self-consciousness
  • Repeatedly examining ones appearance in a mirror or avoidance of all mirrors
  • Belief that others take notice of your appearance in a negative way.
  • Irrationally believing you have a defect that makes you ugly
  • Avoidance of social situations and desire to remain house bound.
  • Chronically in need of others reassurance about your appearance.

There is a great deal of shame associated with this flaw.  In an effort to fix the flaw sufferers, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to hide it from view.  The flaw can be anything they see in the mirror whether it's real or perceived.  They may believe their eyes are uneven, or one nostril is wider than the other, or their lips are too thin. It could be they have perfect muscle tone, are at healthy weight and well proportioned  but insist their legs are too big, butt is too flabby, or they see cankles instead of lithe ankles.   Whatever it is, it is only visible to them and yet they have an unhealthy obsession fueled with worry about what others "see".

People with BDD are so crippled by their need to fix the problem, sometimes seeking out cosmetic surgery after cosmetic surgery and never really hiding the perceived flaw.  Teen girls with the illness will spend hours upon hours locked in a bathroom caught in the cycle of applying make-up , washing it off and applying make-up again. They can repeat this numerous times but never seem to hide the flaw only they see.  Sadly, the suicide rate for people with BDD is 45 times that of the general population.

Doctors believe its causes are rooted in three areas.  Neurochemistry and brain structure can play a role.  In some cases, there could be a genetic component if other family members have a history of BDD. Lastly, ones environment, life experiences and cultural norms can contribute if there are negative influences involved. In most cases drug intervention is prescribed with the thought that Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors will help balance the brain chemistry.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has also been shown to help treat BDD, by reframing the way a person thinks and feels about the situation. It gives them non pharmaceutical coping mechanism.

Other studies have shown that our brain chemistry is heavily influenced by what we eat, making  proper nutrition a wise first step to try. Pair it with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and those with mild cases may be able to avoid the drug prescription.  One of the best ways to get the proper nutrition is to add a daily shake to your meal plan.  Shakeology has 70 superfoods that provide the dense nutrition the body and brain need to function efficiently.

If you know of anyone dealing with symptoms of BDD, urge them to seek treatment.   Being certified in holistic nutrition coaching, I can help shore up any nutritional deficiencies.

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