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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: What's Body Dysmorphia?

By Yuan Cheng

Highlights

  • Body Dysmorphia is the warped perception of one’s body image

  • This is caused by low self-esteem, anxiety, etc.


Introduction


Although everyone feels self-conscious regarding the way they look sometimes, body dysmorphia is an unhealthy fixation on specific flaws that one perceives they have in their appearance. It affects both men and women equally, and most afflicted develop the disorder as teenagers. About 1 in 100 adults experience Body Dysmorphic Disorder.


Causes


Dysmorphia is caused by both natural and environmental factors that contribute to the immense anxiety over one’s features.


Abuse & Trauma

Low self-esteem, often caused by trauma, bullying, or even personality type, is a leading factor in body dysmorphia. It is statistically suggested that those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are more prone to developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder due to their experiences with homophobia, transphobia, and other targeted aggression. Some who faced racial discrimination and colorism might develop BDD as a response. Anxiety, OCD, and depression can also cause BDD, as well as the hinging of social relationships upon personal appearance.


‘Trendy’ Beauty

The pursuit of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations are causes of BDD as well. Online filters that improve or obscure certain features, comparisons with strangers on social media, etc., all cause and exacerbate the symptoms of BDD. Trying to emulate celebrities who had plastic surgery also meant that many turn to plastic surgery to try and “fix” their flaws, leading to toxic cycles of continuous surgery without ever reaching the desired result—especially since social media cycles through different beauty trends at a very fast pace.


Genetics

Certain evidence indicates a connection between having family members with BDD and having BDD. But as research in this aspect is still continuing, there is no present way to discern if it’s because one mirrors the behaviors and ideologies of their family.


Symptoms


Some symptoms of BDD include:

  1. An avid avoidance of mirrors, or a constant checking of your reflection in the mirror

  2. Attempts to obscure or mitigate the part of your features that you consider a “deformity” or “ugly”

  3. Fear of social situations and rejection

  4. Constant grooming or exercise driven solely by the need to improve your appearance

  5. Disbelief when others assure you that you look fine

  6. Suicidal thoughts


Facial features; skin complexion and/or color; genitalia, muscle, and breast size; hair thickness and shine are all aspects most frequently thought about by people with BDD.


Treatment


Early recognition of signs and symptoms plus early treatment will both help with the healing process. Limiting social media use is also important. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help one swap out negative thoughts and critiques of their body for positive ones. Medication recommended by a licensed therapist or doctor can also ameliorate the disorder.


Conclusion


Interesting Fact

Although the disorder has likely existed for a very long time, it was not recognized and given a proper name until 1981, when Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli coined the term “dysmorphophobia.”


References

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