Body dysmorphic disorder: causes, symptoms and treatment

Body dysmorphic disorder, formerly called dysmorphophobia, it is a disorder linked to excessive concern for one’s own body image.

People who suffer from this disorder experience great anxiety and an irrational perception of their own body which ends up causing destructive effects in their life, and which causes them to develop negative habits for their well-being, such as looking at themselves. . These habits have a significant impact on the way these people live their daily lives and reduce their self-esteem.

How a person with body dysmorphic disorder (DBD) feels

The image we have of ourselves is one of the most important factors in our level of well-being. Although it is not a tangible thing, this self-image linked to our self-esteem cannot only make us feel better or worse about who we areBut it also has an impact on how we behave. If our self-esteem is very low, we are more likely to neglect our hygiene, avoid situations of social interaction with strangers, and exhibit depressive symptoms.

However, if this low self-esteem results in excessive concern for real or imagined physical details perceived as imperfections or flaws, what is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder may appear.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

People with CDD
they continuously suffer from their physical appearance and, although to a greater or lesser extent almost everyone cares about the image they project and what others will think of them, they carry the obsession and concern for their appearance to pathological extremes. It is an obsession that makes us constantly wonder how we can eliminate certain physical imperfections in our body and at the same time makes us fantasize about what our life would be like without this “ballast”.

Concern for physical appearance has become normal given the culture of the image in which we live immersed. But when this concern becomes too much of a part of our lives and causes us to engage in self-defeating behaviors, then we are talking about a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

In summary, people with body dysmorphic disorder usually think, feel or behave as follows:

  • They have a negative perception of their body image
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or loneliness
  • They tend to isolate themselves and avoid situations that can cause anxiety or discomfort
  • Depression or anxiety
  • They usually use drugs or other drugs
  • Self-harm
  • suicidal thoughts

It is often the case that people with body dysmorphic disorder do not seek help because they are too worried about how people will judge them or if they think they are too futile. Therefore,
many of these people only receive treatment after having known this pathology for a long time.

Michael Jackson, the most famous case of body dysmorphic disorder

CDD is included in obsessive-compulsive disorder, and therefore these patients develop anxiety symptoms and compulsive routines. But of course, the hallmark of this disorder is an excessive fixation on their own body image, which leads them to look bad in front of the mirror and magnify what they don’t like about their body.

We all know the famous case of
Michael jackson, The artist known worldwide as the King of Pop, who has been at the top of the music world for more than three decades. No one can speak of his talent as a singer and dancer and his contribution to music, but his continued media exposure and harsh childhood marked his private life. “MJ” was transforming his body after several surgeries, and while there is a lot of speculation, rumors, and information about what went on in his mind, it is clear that he was never at comfortable with its cos.

Signs of body dysmorphic disorder

Many wonder how someone who has been, is, and will be the inspiration for so many to suffer so much in their lifetime. Obviously, not many people are going to be exposed from an early age to fame and continued media appearances like Michael Jackson. But even though everyone experiences a body dysmorphic disorder in their own way,
there are a number of signs that characterize this disorder.

Obsessions with one’s own body are so common that these people can spend several hours a day thinking negatively about their physical appearance. Plus, they usually focus on a specific area of ​​their body that causes them constant anxiety.

These persons:

  • Observe the features of your face: nose, eyes, hair, chin, skin, lips, ears …
  • Observe particular areas of the body, for example, the breasts or genitals
  • Have a negative perception of a body characteristic and think it is disproportionate
  • Have a perception that certain features of the body and think that it is asymmetrical
  • Seeing too thin or obese
  • Have feeding problems
  • Engage in compulsive behaviors to avoid obsessive anxiety: do you wear makeup in public, comb your hair all the time, put on clothes that cover your body, constantly go to the operating room, or take medication to lose weight weight or gain weight, etc.

What Are the Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It is difficult to determine exactly what causes this disorder. Despite everything, I
research has concluded that there are different causes that cause an individual to end up suffering from this disorder.

Image culture

image culture and the influence of the media, What turns us into objects rather than subjects, exerts a decisive influence on the way we perceive our own body, We are continually surrounded by magazines and advertisements that send us the message that if we do not have the body perfect, we are worth nothing. The best way to counter this negative influence is education from an early age, because we value other things in life.


People with CDD may have developed a negative perception of their own image as a result of bullying during adolescence (but also at an earlier or later age), when the individual is more sensitive to their appearance. In addition, teasing from classmates can cause this type of disorder.

low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can be a consequence of CDD, but also a cause, which can make an individual appear worse than he is. For example, you think you have extra pounds.

To be alone

The fear of not having friends or a partner can cause an individual to develop thought patterns that cause them to suffer from CDD. For example, if a person thinks that through appearances they can have more friends and be more popular, the added pressure to do so can lead to CDD.


they are very hard on themselves and very demanding. Their obsession with perfection may center on their physical appearance, which predisposes them to CDD.

To learn more about perfectionism, you can read our article: “Perfectionist Personality: The Cons of Perfectionism”

Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder

When a person suffers from this disorder,
the first thing to do is to accept it and ask for help. The person should talk to their family or friends loved ones so as not to feel alone. The next step is to seek professional help. The first person to contact is probably the general practitioner.

The general practitioner can make an initial diagnosis, but it is necessary to contact a psychologist specializing in the subject, as it is necessary to re-educate the individual so that he acquires positive behaviors and realistic thought patterns.

cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is usually the go-to treatment for this type of disorder, although not all treatments work for everyone. The goal of the cognitive behavioral therapist is to identify the connections between the thoughts, feelings and behavior of the patient, so that the patient can acquire practical skills to overcome this disorder. Therapy can be group or individual.

In the treatment of CDD, cognitive behavioral therapy will generally focus on the individual’s attitude towards their own body and physical appearance, with the aim of:
reduce the need for negative behaviors and help the patient to feel less anxious about their own body image. Different cognitive-behavioral techniques are often used: exposure techniques, social skills and cognitive restructuring.

To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy, we invite you to read our article: “Cognitive behavioral therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?”

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