The 5 MISCONCEPTIONS about BODY DYSPHORIA
Now to get into body dysphoria, l want to briefly tell you that there is a diagnosis in the DSM to help describe this issue. It’s called Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD. It falls under the Obsessive-Compulsive and related disorders section because it has that obsessive component to it. In short it is diagnosed when we are preoccupied with one or more perceived defects of our physical appearance, we engage in repetitive behaviors as a result (ie. mirror checking, excessive grooming, etc) and it impairs our ability to function in our daily life (many of my patients with this will struggle to make it anywhere on time, or even leave the house because they don’t look just right – and they even struggle to tell you what “just right” means, but they know it when they see it or feel it).
Now into some of the most common misconceptions!
1. That only women can have BDD. The percentage of men who reported being dissatisfied with their overall appearance is 43% (that is triple what it was only 25 years ago). BDD doesn’t care what sex or gender you are, it is a serious mental health condition that can lead to suicide, so it’s important we know it can happen to anyone.
2. That BDD only occurs to people who are a certain weight. Underweight or overweight, BDD actually has nothing to do with our size. Any person of any size or weight can suffer from BDD. Remember, BDD is simply our belief that something is wrong with a certain part or parts of our body and we obsess about it and take drastic measures to hide or fix it. I have heard from my patients and other kinions that many see certain parts of their body as much smaller or skinnier than they are (and don’t like the boneyness of it) while others share how they feel so much larger and pudgier than they are and hate how their clothes always pull on that one area. It’s a mental illness, it’s not a vanity issue.
3. That BDD is just like an eating disorder. So many people think that those with an ED also have BDD, and while some of the symptoms can overlap, BDD doesn’t focus only on food. Remember, it’s about our own perception that a part or parts of our body are just bad or wrong and we obsess over how to hide or fix it. You can be diagnosed with both an ED and BDD, but you would have to meet both sets of criteria, and not everyone does.
4. That plastic surgery can cure it. BDD is a mental illness, not just a bump in our nose that we have hated since high school and want to get fixed. In my opinion, it isn’t even ethical for plastic surgeons to operate on those with BDD, and some do require people who have had surgeries already, to receive a psychological exam prior to booking any others, but many don’t care to check. Just so you know, of those with BDD who do get plastic surgery to “fix” the problem area, only 2% of them are actually pleased with the surgery and it helps with their BDD!
5. That there isn’t any help. Therapy (specifically CBT) has been shown to be really beneficial for those with BDD. While we don’t know the exact cause, we do know that many with BDD have falsely held beliefs about themselves and their appearance and CBT helps with that by working to figure out where those beliefs comes from and helping you challenge and change them. SSRIs, SNRI’s and even some atypical antipsychotic medications have been shown to alleviate some of the BDD symptoms. So please reach out, please speak up because there are treatment options, and you can heal and overcome it.
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My BDD video: https://youtu.be/AIQWizjTZPg
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