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Body dysmorphia: Definition, symptoms and treatments

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Actor Megan Fox is a longtime star on the cover of the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. considered a sex symbolhave she said she was in it of 5-10 million People in the United States who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder.

“I don’t see myself the way other people see me. There has never been and never has been a moment in my life when I loved my body,” Fox said in the video. said in Sports Illustrated interview. “When I was a kid, I had this obsession with, ‘But I should be this way.’ And I don’t know why I was so conscious about my body at such a young age.”

The discrepancy between how someone perceives themselves and how others see them is a prominent symptom of body dysmorphic disorder. Also known as body dysmorphic disorder, the disorder is reported to be “characterized by an excessive preoccupation with imaginary defects in physical appearance or markedly excessive concern over minor physical abnormalities.” American Psychological Association.

What people really look like, or how attractive they are, often has little to do with it.

“Even if this person has very noticeable scars or other noticeable physical deformities, that’s not what we’re talking about,” says clinical psychologist and author Ramani Durvasula. California.

“People become obsessed, almost obsessed, with small physical features. You won’t notice,” she added. “It’s never enough. … And it’s going to basically take over their lives.”

Microgen Images/Science Photo Library RF/Getty Images

People with body dysmorphic disorder tend to spend a lot of time looking in the mirror to analyze perceived imperfections.

around it 2% of the world population I have body dysmorphic disorder, which affects men and women almost equally. Anxiety & Depression Association of America.Symptoms usually begin Adolescence is when the body begins to undergo major changes.

Body dysmorphic disorder has the following subforms: muscle dysmorphic disorder, It primarily affects men and is often characterized by a preoccupation with the perception that one’s body is not toned or not muscular enough, regardless of how muscular the person is. is.

Here’s what it’s like to live with body dysmorphic disorder and how people can find help.

What is not body dysmorphic disorder

According to Durvasla and Cincinnati-based psychologist Ann Carney Cook, who specializes in eating disorders and body image disorders, body dysmorphic disorder is often mistaken for eating disorders, but there are some differences. For some reason it is not.

People with eating disorders are trapped in distorted perceptions of their body type and weight, Durvasula said. “The person is not only exhibiting[eating disorder]behaviors, but also so-called compensatory behaviors, which may include periods of not eating, excessive exercise, and the use of diuretics and laxatives.”

But experts say body dysmorphic disorder is generally centered around imaginary or real features.

Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Although there is no single cause of body dysmorphic disorder, there are several contributing factors.

“Body dysmorphic disorder is in the same family of disorders as obsessive-compulsive disorder,” says Dr. Durvasula. “The only genetic evidence we have seen is that if you have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with OCD, that person may be more likely to develop body dysmorphic disorder. is.”

The researchers suggest that the brains of some people with body dysmorphic disorder may “abnormally process visual input when examining their own faces.” 2010 survey.

Body dysmorphic disorder may accompany anxiety.If someone is obsessed with certain things because of anxiety, body characteristics may be another issue to focus on, Durvasura Added.

“Social media has clearly not helped with this. We have become more socially compared to what other people look like. Many people are putting false images out into the world,” Durvasura said. rice field. “In adolescence, evaluations of things like physical appearance and sociability will become more pronounced.”

Judging and justifying yourself and others based on your appearance, and having a loving family could also play a role, she added.

“So people are overly sensitive to (perceived) flaws in their appearance,” Kearney Cook added. “And what often happens is that somewhere in their hearts, whether it’s because of a difficult childhood or whatever, they feel, ‘I’m not good enough.'” is. ’ And they project it onto their bodies. ”

A perfectionist mindset reinforces this view, she added.

living with body dysmorphic disorder

The effects of body dysmorphic disorder can affect all aspects of life, including social, occupational, and economic, especially if untreated and worsens over time.

“They are so obsessed with the feeling that they have physical problems that they end up spending significant amounts of time and money on cosmetic and dental treatments, dermatology and even surgery. will be,” says Durvasula.

People with body dysmorphic disorder also have a “checking” behavior, which can make them look in the mirror and take countless selfies and seem to spend a lot of time evaluating them. Mr Durvasula added.

Obsessively looking in the mirror can help reduce anxiety about how you look, or help you see if perceived imperfections aren’t still present or getting worse. National Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders Association. They consider the feature unusual or ugly. According to Carney Cook, body dysmorphic disorder was originally described as “imaginary ugliness syndrome.”

People with this disorder may seek reassurance from others by asking if they have deficiencies, if their functioning seems fine, and if there are any problems or differences in functioning. I have.

Experts say people with body dysmorphic disorder can become isolated due to embarrassment and concern about their appearance. They can also burn out social support by constantly seeking reassurance, Durvasula added.

Spending so much time analyzing one’s appearance often causes people to be late to work or miss school, she says. Some people put themselves in financial jeopardy by buying cosmetics or buying cosmetics. We owe ourselves and our families debts, and sometimes we do so in secret out of fear of what might happen if people find out.

Kearney Cook’s patient was obsessed with identifying defects in his nose and was constantly looking in the mirror, even while driving, psychologists said. She noted that the car crash into the tree was a wake-up call for the patient, which led to treatment and ultimately some improvement.

get treatment for body dysmorphic disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a “difficult clinical condition” to manage because it cannot be cured and is a “very changeable pattern,” Durvasula said. However, there are also some effective treatments.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is preferred by many professionals. A person’s distortions and thoughts are believed to cause this behavior, so therapists work on the person’s distortions and improve from there, Durvasula said. Because body dysmorphic disorder falls into the same category as obsessive-compulsive disorder, treatments for OCD, such as exposure and response prevention, may also help manage body dysmorphic disorder. in a safe environment This therapy reveals It exposes people to obsessions and triggering situations and demands that they choose not to react with compulsive behavior.

Durvasula said people with body dysmorphic disorder are less likely to look in the mirror or take selfies when undergoing such treatment. “They actually have to endure the discomfort of not participating in the checking behavior. But that has to be complemented by studies of cognitive behavior.”

If you have a history of trauma, you may also need trauma-based treatment. This requires mental health professionals to recognize that a person’s trauma can be the underlying cause of body dysmorphic disorder.

“Some of the therapy is very educational about certain images we see in the world and how unreal they are,” Durvasula said.

Researchers are also studying brain chemicals such as serotonin, which are also responsible for body dysmorphic disorder, Carney-Cook said. Therefore, antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs may also be helpful in treatment.

If you can’t find a mental health professional who specializes in body dysmorphic disorder, consult someone with expertise in OCD and eating disorders, Durvasula said.

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