Negative body image and very low self-esteem can turn into a clinical disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Body Dysmorphic Disorder happens when a person’s vision of themselves is distorted. They will perceive flaws with their body and repeat behaviors to manage these flaws, like constantly checking a mirror or grooming. BDD can interfere with a person’s ability to function in school, activities or relationships. It is different from an eating disorder.
BDD causes a person’s view of themselves to be distorted, meaning that they may perceive a minor flaw as a very major issue. Having BDD does not mean that the person is self-obsessed, vain or shallow. They feel extreme distress about their body image that can impact their daily life. BDD can affect anyone.
SYMPTOMS OF BDD
Everyone has moments where they feel unhappy with the way they look; these thoughts come and go. However for people with BDD, these thoughts are extreme and recurrent. Reassurance about their appearance from their loved ones does not help.
Symptoms of BDD may include:
- frequently thinking about your appearance- over an hour a day
- repeatedly asking people if you look okay and not feeling reassured by their answers
- compulsively picking at your skin
- constantly comparing your looks to other people’s
- spending a long time in front of a mirror, or avoiding mirrors altogether
- spending a long time concealing what you feel is a defect
- becoming very distressed over a particular area of your body (commonly the face)
- feeling anxious when around other people and or avoiding social situations because you don’t feel you look good enough
- not wanting to get help because you feel others might judge you to be vain or shallow
- seek extreme fixes for perceived problems, like surgery, extreme dieting or exercise
If you feel you need help, talk to a trusted adult, who can support you to seek professional help.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder versus Gender Dysphoria
Although non-binary and transgender individuals can also suffer from BDD, the experience of severe distress, anxiety or depression from the feeling that the body does not match the internal and true sense of gender is identified as Gender Dysphoria, not BDD. Gender dysphoria DOES NOT MEAN you have a mental illness because you feel that your gender identity is different than your assigned sex at birth and the goal of treatment is to address the stress, anxiety and depression that can come with this experience NOT to change how a person feels about their gender.