Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD is a clinically recognized disorder that affects millions of men, women, and teens worldwide. This disorder is characterized by an obsession with one’s body or more typically, with a certain body part that is thought to be defective, deformed, ugly, repulsive, or otherwise in need of correction. This obsession can be over a perceived or an actual imperfection or flaw on one’s body, or it can involve one’s looks overall.
Must Know Body Dysmorphic Disorder Statistics
To better understand body dysmorphic disorder and the condition overall, consider some very shocking statistics about this condition and those who suffer from it.
1. The earliest documentation about the disease dates back to 1891 when Enrique Morselli referred to the condition as dysmorphophobia, or a fear of people.
2. In 1987 the American Psychiatric Association or APA recognized it as a disorder, changing the name to body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. This change was done because the original name implied a phobia of people themselves, whereas the disorder causes social phobias because of a patient’s poor body image, not because of social settings overall.
3. For a disorder to truly be considered body dysmorphic disorder, a patient would need to have a significant preoccupation with a trivial defect, real or imagined, in their appearance. This preoccupation would include social impairment or other dysfunction in their everyday life. Other disorders must also be ruled out, including anorexia, which is an obsession with becoming thinner, as well as depression and anxiety or panic disorders.
4. Body dysmorphic disorder can be marked by a subtype called muscle dysmorphia, which is the preoccupation with one’s muscular build, believing that the body is too small or not muscular enough. This more often occurs in men than in women.
5. The most common physical features that patients with BDD obsess over include their hair, nose, hands, feet, and skin, and for men, their body size and muscular build. Women too may tend to obsess over their breasts, and both genders may tend to obsess about their buttocks and appearance of their genitals.
6. Many patients with body dysmorphic disorder seek out cosmetic surgery to address their perceived flaw, however, the outcome of this surgery rarely affects their BDD symptoms. They may have their perceived flaw “fixed” but still obsess over their appearance.
7. In extreme cases, some patients with body dysmorphic disorder admit to preferring to suffer with the condition than to be convinced that their perceived deformity does not exist.
8. Because the appearance of their skin is a common concern for many with BDD, they may begin to pick at their skin as a way of supposedly addressing the flaw and in turn, may actually make their appearance worse. This is one habit that many doctors are trained to look for when it comes to patients suffering with BDD.
9. Many with body dysmorphic disorder also suffer from delusions of reference, meaning that they believe others are fully aware of this perceived flaw. They may assume that passersby are laughing at them or outright pointing at their supposed flaw, and that their friends and family also perceive them as ugly or repulsive.
10. Doctors and researchers have said that there are many causes of body dysmorphic disorder, and many patients suffer from more than one of these causes. They may include societal pressures when it comes to one’s appearance, parental pressure, poor self-esteem, peer pressure, cultural expectations, genetics, chemical imbalances, and other physical and emotional issues.
11. In many cases body dysmorphic disorder can be triggered by social anxiety and other particular events. For example, a child may be teased throughout school over a certain physical characteristic, and from there they develop full-blown body dysmorphic disorder.
12. Some estimate that body dysmorphic disorder to a certain extent affects 1% of the population, or 1 out of every 100 people. This is significantly more than those who have schizophrenia and just slightly more than those who have anorexia.
13. Teen girls who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder are often found to spend an inordinate amount of time styling their hair and makeup; as an example, one sufferer would reportedly apply her makeup then wipe it off then reapply it, and repeat this cycle for hours. This too is a symptom which doctors look for when diagnosing BDD especially in teens.
14. Obsession with mirrors is another common symptom of BDD. Patients may find that they stare in the mirror for hours, and may also seek out any reflective surface to look at their perceived flaw; this can include spoons, soda bottles, dinner plates, windows, and the like.
15. The suicide rate for those with BDD is some 45 times higher than that of the general population.
16. Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder varies according to the patient and their overall condition. Some respond well to antidepressants while others need anti-anxiety medications. Cognitive therapy can also help, and many find that a combination of these treatment options is the best choice for them.
17. Exposure therapy can also be effective for those with body dysmorphic disorder. This type of therapy slowly introduces a patient to situations that they may otherwise find triggers anxiety or panic. As they are reassured of their safety and security in these situations, their panic subsides. For those with body dysmorphic disorder, these situations can include going out in public or having visitors to their home.
True body dysmorphic disorder involves an obsessive thought pattern over one’s body or this particular body part, typically for more than an hour every day. The significance of this body part or the actual flaw in one’s body is overly exaggerated, as is its significance. True body dysmorphic disorder is not simply a wish to have a smaller nose or better skin. A person with BDD may find that their actual quality of life suffers because of this obsession, and they may even turn to self-harm or some unhealthy means of addressing this perceived or exaggerated flaw.
Most who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder hide their obsessions, as they can experience social isolation because of their unhealthy thoughts. They may also avoid people because they may be embarrassed over this perceived flaw in their body or their perceived ugliness. They may also want to avoid appearing vain by talking obsessively about their body or certain body parts.
Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized as an obsessive-compulsive disorder and is often present with depression or major depressive disorder, bipolar disease, social anxiety disorders, and various forms of substance abuse. It often manifests itself in the late teens but many adults also suffer from this condition.
In many cases those with severe body dysmorphic disorder may be suicidal and may go through suicide attempts. It is often present in those seeking psychiatric help although it’s often overlooked as a diagnosis, as the patient may be hesitant to talk about their obsessive thoughts. Many doctors also have a difficult time understanding the condition, especially if they are not familiar with the obsessive-compulsive spectrum of disorders. It is often misdiagnosed as social anxiety disorder or depression.
While some may assume that body dysmorphic disorder is a relatively new condition, documentation of the condition dates back to the late 1800s, and it may have even been present much earlier but simply lacked a medical diagnosis. It can have various causes and various treatments, depending on its severity and any other illnesses the patient may suffer. When diagnosed properly and with proper treatment, a person suffering from body dysmorphic disorder can find relief from their panic and anxiety and their obsessive thoughts, and may see a return of their quality of life.
It’s vital that friends and family of those with body dysmorphic disorder understand the condition and do not try to treat it on their own. As with all obsessive-compulsive disorders, it is best left to the care and attention of professionals. Simply telling someone with BDD that they look fine or that their nose is not too big is not enough to treat them, and in some ways can even make their condition worse. The patient may assume that others are aware of this perceived flaw and may begin to obsess even more over their appearance.
Parents especially need to be aware of the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder if they should appear in teens. Most teens have a preoccupation with their looks and it’s not unusual for teens to think they’re ugly or not as pretty as classmates or celebrities, but when these thoughts begin to interfere with a teen’s quality of life, professional help may be needed. It’s also vital that parents be aware of the self-harm that often accompanies BDD, for example, excessively picking at one’s skin or impulsively cutting one’s hair can be signs of this disorder.
Although statistics regarding recovery are not readily available, the right treatment can help anyone who suffers with any type of obsessive-compulsive disorder including BDD. Many who have this disorder report a marked improvement in their overall mood and self-image during treatment, and many enjoy a higher quality of life with medication and therapy. Recognizing the disorder in teens can also keep the condition from interfering with their education and their overall self-esteem.
For many patients the cooperation of friends and family is also important for recovery. These ones cannot be pushed or forced into recovery and a good therapist can assist them in working with the disorder. While body dysmorphic disorder is not a fatal condition, it can lead to suicide if left untreated, but it can also be diminished and controlled if treated properly by a trained and caring professional.