Understanding and Managing Body Dysmorphia


Body image is crucial to our overall well-being, influencing how we see ourselves and interact with the world. Body Dysmorphia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is different from typical concerns about appearance. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health disorder in which you cannot stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance—a flaw that appears minor or is often unnoticeable to others. But you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious that you may avoid many social situations. This condition can significantly impact an individual’s life, leading to severe emotional distress and impair the ability to conduct normal tasks.

Types of Body Dysmorphia

While BDD generally manifests with an obsession over physical appearance, it can focus on any body part. The disorder may fall into several subtypes based on the area of focus:

Skin Imperfections: Including concerns over wrinkles, scars, acne, and complexion.
Facial Features: Preoccupations with the nose, eyes, hair, or size and shape of the lips or chin.
Body Weight: Obsessions with body shape, muscle tone, and the belief that certain body parts are too big or too small, often unrelated to actual body weight.
Hair: Excessive distress over hair thinning, baldness, or body hair.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

The symptoms of BDD typically manifest as:

Intense preoccupation with minor or imagined physical imperfections.
Constantly checking the mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether.
Excessive grooming or engaging in behaviors like skin picking or hair plucking.
Constant comparisons with others over appearance.
Seeking reassurance about one’s appearance from others.
Avoidance of social situations due to feelings of self-consciousness or a belief that one appears unattractive or deformed.
Emotional problems, such as feelings of disgust, distress, or anxiety about perceived flaws in one’s body.
Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction.

Causes of Body Dysmorphia

The exact cause of BDD is unclear, but several factors may contribute to its development:

Biological Factors: Genetic predispositions or neurobiological abnormalities, such as irregularities in brain structure or function, could influence BDD onset.
Psychological Factors: Low self-esteem, perfectionism, or a predisposition to anxiety and depression can exacerbate body image worries.
Environmental Influences: Cultural factors, media representations of beauty and body image, and societal standards can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy.
Traumatic Experiences: Personal history of physical or emotional abuse or bullying may trigger the disorder.

Impact of Body Dysmorphia

The impact of BDD is profound and can cause social isolation or avoidance of social interactions due to the fear of judgment or ridicule. It can also lead to challenges in personal relationships due to excessive concerns about appearance.

The inability to maintain employment or achieve academic goals due to preoccupation with appearance can cause professional and personal setbacks. It may also lead to further psychological issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, or major depression.

Getting Help for Body Dysmorphia

For those struggling with BDD, embracing self-compassion and challenging negative perceptions about one’s appearance are vital steps toward recovery. It is important to distinguish BDD from other mental health disorders like eating disorders or OCD, which may share similar symptoms but require different treatment approaches. That is why seeking professional help is crucial to properly diagnose and effectively manage this disorder.

At Bangkok Mental Health Hospital, we offer comprehensive treatment options tailored to the unique needs of those with BDD, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) designed to address the thought patterns associated with BDD.

Medication may also be used to help manage the intense anxiety and depression that can accompany BDD. We also offer support groups for our patients, within a compassionate and understanding community.

Treating Body Dysmorphia at BMHH

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a challenging condition, but with the right support and treatment, recovery is possible. Bangkok Mental Health Hospital is committed to providing professional, expert care for those dealing with BDD, helping them to improve their self-image and lead more fulfilling lives.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the symptoms of body dysmorphia, contact us for a consultation.