Facts About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a progressive mental illness in which the sufferer views a body flaw in an exaggerated light. Sometimes the flaw isn’t real, ...

by Staff

Facts About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a progressive mental illness in which the sufferer views a body flaw in an exaggerated light. Sometimes the flaw isn’t real, but others can’t convince him that his perception is skewed. BDD is sometimes called dysmorphobia, which means: fear of imagined deformity.

Common Elements

Scientists aren’t sure what causes BDD but certain elements are common to BDD sufferers:

*Family members with the disorder

*Childhood teasing

*Sexual or physical abuse

*Low self-esteem

*Cultural norms perceived as peer pressure

BDD affects only 1% of the population, however, of those who seek cosmetic or dermatological treatments, as many as 10% may have the disorder. BDD strikes in adolescence and affects both men and women.

Associated Complications

BDD can cause the following associated complications:

*A dislike or even fear of social situations, leading to social isolation and becoming homebound

* An inability to attend school or the workplace


*Low self-esteem

*Undergoing unnecessary cosmetic surgery

*Substance abuse

*Eating disorders

*Anxiety disorders

*OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

*Mood disorders and depression

*Suicidal thoughts or behavior

If you think you may have BDD, consult your physician or a mental health care professional to discuss the issue. It may just save your life. During a first appointment, expect that your health care provider will ask you a number of questions, including:

*At what point did you begin to experience symptoms?

*How has your quality of life been affected by your symptoms?

*How many hours a day do you worry about your looks?

*Have you had previous treatment for the condition?

*Have you undergone any cosmetic procedures? Which kind?

*How have you dealt with your symptoms?

*Is there anything that makes your symptoms worsen?

*Have others said anything about the way you act or about your moods?

*Do you have any relatives who have suffered from ill mental health?

*What are your expectations of treatment?

*Which medications, herbs, or supplements do you take at present?

Accurate Diagnosis

A series of medical and psychological tests and exams will then be scheduled in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis of your condition. Here are some of the tests that can help your physician reach a conclusion:

*Physical Examination-Vital signs, height and weight, heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, palpation of the abdomen, and using the stethoscope to hear heart and lung sounds.

*Lab Tests-CBC (complete blood count), thyroid function, alcohol and drug screen.

*Psychological Evaluation-Your physician or mental health professional will discuss your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior with you in an effort to get a total picture of your psychological condition.

Combination Treatment

If it is deemed you meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for body dysmorphic disorder, you will likely be treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy are known to be helpful for BDD.

There are no medications specific to BDD; however, psychiatric drugs used for depression are sometimes given for BDD as an off-label use. There is believed to be a connection between BDD and serotonin levels so drugs which affect serotonin are often prescribed for this condition. These drugs include:

*Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

*Tricyclic antidepressants

BDD sufferers need larger doses of these medications than those with depression. A gradual increase should help pinpoint the optimum dose, though it may take up to 12 weeks until you feel relief from your symptoms. You may need to try more than one medication to find the best one with the least number of side effects. Most BDD patients take medication indefinitely.


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