Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which an individual has an intense, overwhelming preoccupation with a perceived flaw in his or her appearance. A person with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) has a highly distorted sense of his or her own appearance, and any part of his or her body can be a subject of that concern. Sometimes the perceived defect is completely imagined, and sometimes an actual “flaw” is the subject of a disproportionate level of obsessive concern. The root of the problem lies not with the person’s actual appearance, but with the individual’s self-image and self-esteem. BDD can be extremely debilitating to those who suffer from it, because the constant preoccupation with one’s appearance can impair social function and make the most basic activities of daily life, including friendship, employment, and leisure time, particularly distressing. This essay will outline the symptoms, common behaviors, causes, and treatment of this disorder, as well as it’s prevalence in society.
Body dysmorphic disorder was first included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1989 (Ahmed, et al., 2010). The current edition of the DSM gives three criteria for defining this disorder: A. Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. If a slight physical anomaly is present, the person's concern is markedly excessive. B. The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. C. The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (eg, dissatisfaction with body shape and size in anorexia nervosa).
The Mayo Clinic describes the following symptoms for BDD (2010):
•Preoccupation with your physical appearance
•Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
•Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoidance of mirrors altogether
•Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
•The need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others
•Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
•Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking
•Refusal to appear in pictures
•Comparison of your appearance with that of others
•Avoidance of social situations
•The need to wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws Certainly, Many people feel self-conscious about their appearance, and have considered one of these thoughts, but when these symptoms take over a person’s life, and when they interfere with a person’s daily existence, that person should seek treatment for BDD. The disorder is often best diagnosed by surveying the patient’s symptoms and studying their medical history, and several reliable surveys for diagnosing BDD have been developed in recent years (Ahmed, et al., 2010).
BDD is estimated to effect 1-2% percent of the general adult population, and it is thought to affect both men and women equally (Ahmed, et al., 2010). The onset of BDD is usually during adolescence (age 14-17), and the disorder is most common among people 16-25 years old, although older people can suffer from it as well (Phillips, 2005, p. 158). The disease is frequently misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for several reasons. A person suffering from BDD may be too embarrassed or ashamed to seek treatment. BDD also shares many symptoms with other disorders such as anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder, making it more difficult to accurately diagnose (Massachusetts General Hospital, 2010). Furthermore, a person with a noticeable obsession with his or her looks is often simply dismissed as superficial or vain (Phillips, 2009, p. 27). BDD is especially common among certain groups. Katharine Phillips estimates that 12%...