Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Manila Bulletin, August 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Body Dysmorphic Disorder


Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Defined, BDD is an excessive preoccupation with a real or imagined defect in one's physical appearance. Frequently, the affected person feels ugly or disfigured when all she's worried about is a blemish or a crooked smile. The problem is the negative thinking about a perceived physical defect. Clearly, it isn't the physical flaw at all. Why there are confident, successful people with polio or supernumerary digits or a flat nose or a large forehead (nota bene: balding men did not originally have large foreheads; it's just that the hair line's receding, so there) that have accepted their defects. And then they in fact have parlayed these into winning in life.

Signs and symptoms. The MayoClinic.com article on BDD lists the following:

* "Repeatedly checking the appearance of the specific body part in mirrors or other reflective surfaces

* Frequently comparing appearance with that of others

* Refusing to have pictures taken

* Wearing excessive clothing, makeup, and hats to camouflage the perceive flaw

* Using hands or posture to hide the imagined defect

* Picking at one's skin

* Frequently measuring the imagined or exaggerated defect

* Seeking surgery or other medical treatment against doctor's advice

* Feeling anxious and self-conscious around others (social phobia)

* Seeking reassurance about the perceived defective body part

Causes. To the experts in this condition (psychiatrists and clinical psychologists), BDD is a kind of somatoform disorder. This means that physical symptoms suggest a medical condition. However, in BDD, there is NO underlying medical problem. Researchers believe that a combination of these factors contributed to body dysmorphic disorder:

* Brain chemical imbalance - specifically serotonin - involved in mood and pain; may be hereditary

* Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - in this condition, uncontrollable, repetitive, ritual behaviors take over a person's life; may also be genetic

* Eating disorder - is related to body dysmorphic disorder if the physical part is involved in dieting; for example, the tummy, arms, thighs, love handles, hips, etc.

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