TW// body dysmorphia, suicide, mental health disorders
Many of us may not like our appearances--we may think that our nose is too crooked, our thighs are too big, or our waist isn’t small enough. These thoughts may hinder us occasionally, but typically not in our daily lives. Those with body dysmorphia cannot control these negative thoughts and become excessively preoccupied with a perceived flaw. Those who struggle with this illness may try to use cosmetics, surgery, and even self-harm in an attempt to “correct” their perceived flaws. To alleviate the effects of this illness, it is crucial to identify the symptoms early on and to receive help as soon as possible.
Body dysmorphia is, according to the Mayo Clinic, when someone “[cannot] stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in [their] appearance--a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others.” In the U.S. alone, there are over 200,000 cases per year. Body dysmorphia, also referred to as BDD, develops most prominently in teens and young adults. It affects men and women almost equally, occurring in roughly 2.5% of males and 2.2% of females. There is no cure for BDD, but treatments like counseling and antidepressants may help. The causes of this illness are unclear, but factors like child maltreatment, sexual trauma, abuse, and previous mental health disorders, especially eating disorders and depression, likely contribute to its development.
What are the symptoms of body dysmorphia? The most common symptom is becoming preoccupied with a perceived flaw to a point that the negative thoughts and behaviors surrounding the flaw become difficult to control. This may lead to constantly comparing appearances with others and avoiding social situations to try to further hide perceived flaws. BDD often hinders social life, work, and school, and it often doesn’t get better on its own; if left untreated, it may lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behavior. It is crucial to seek help as soon as possible from a professional and to communicate issues with a trusted person:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone number: 1-800-273-8255
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Phone Number: 630-577-1333
National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Helpline Phone Number: 1-800-931-2237
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
“Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd.
“Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353938.
“Get Help Now.” Womenshealth.gov, 30 Jan. 2019, www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/get-help-now.