Body Dysmorphic Syndrome is a chronic mental disorder characterized by obsessions about the flaws in one’s physical appearance. These flaws are usually minor, sometimes even imaginary. But it doesn’t matter, a person with this condition won’t recognize that. Instead, she (or he) would go on to obsess about these and criticize herself for having such flaws. It even reaches a point where a person would no longer want to go out and socialize with others just because she is feeling ashamed of her imagined ugliness.
Signs and Symptoms
The primary symptom of this disorder is excessive preoccupation with one’s physical appearance. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look great, vanity in extreme levels can be a sign of an underlying mental condition such as body dysmorphic syndrome. A normal person would spend a few minutes in front of the mirror to tidy herself. A person with this disorder, on the other hand, would take hours or even the whole day, examining her face and body.
Also, a person suffering from this disorder has a strong unwavering belief that she has a defect or abnormality that makes her ugly. Common areas of scrutiny are the nose, hair, skin (complexion, wrinkles, acne, blemishes), breast size, muscle size, and genitalia. Even if people around would tell her that she looks fine or beautiful, this person would go on feeling like the ugliest person in the world. In severe cases, a person would undergo cosmetic procedures but would never be satisfied with the results. Excessive grooming, refusal to have photos taken, extreme self-consciousness, skin picking, avoidance of socialization, and excessive makeup are other signs of this disorder.
Like other mental disorders, the direct cause of body dysmorphic syndrome is unknown. Numerous factors are believed to trigger the onset of this illness. Some of these factors include brain chemical differences, structural brain differences, genes, and environment. Evidence points out that brain chemicals called neurotransmitters linked to mood may influence the onset of this disorder. Certain brain areas are also not fully developed in patients with body dysmorphic syndrome.
Some experts, meanwhile, suggest genetic factor since it is more prevalent in people who have biological family members suffering from the same problem. Finally, there’s also the factor of environment. People, mass media, culture, and even personal experiences particularly negative ones can influence a person’s delusions about her body or self-image. Low self-esteem, teasing during childhood, and societal pressures on beauty can contribute to the onset of this syndrome.
Body dysmorphic syndrome is treated through therapy and medications. It is important to stick to the therapy plan and continue taking medications as directed. If not, it’s possible to experience withdrawal-like symptoms. Lifestyle changes and physical activities can also alleviate the condition. Engaging in regular exercises releases brain chemicals that serve as mood boosters so that it would be much easier to distract oneself from the obsession about physical appearance. It’s imperative to see a doctor immediately. This condition, left untreated, can worsen to suicidal thoughts and tendencies.