Do You Find It Difficult To Not Focus On Your Perceived Defects Or Flaws?
Do you experience shame and distress regarding your appearance? Is it difficult for you to focus on things other than your looks?
If you are dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), you may think about your flaws several hours a day. Perhaps you also find yourself engaging in compensatory repetitive and compulsive behaviors in order to decrease the anxiety you feel. And maybe these thoughts and behaviors are making it more difficult for you to function at work, school, or in social gatherings due to concerns about your physical appearance.
Every Body Is Different – You Can Learn To Accept The One You Have
Most frequently, BDD develops during the teen years when there is much more of a focus on an individual’s body and body changes are constant.
Negative beliefs about yourself or a hyperfocus on specific parts of your body can lead to reassurance seeking from others, avoidance of settings where your body might be seen, excessive mirror checking, and an increased focus on grooming behaviors. In turn, this can also induce hair pulling, skin picking, and pursuing cosmetic surgery. Plus, the distress and shame these thoughts can elicit, might also lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Unfortunately, because perceived flaws can be commonplace, many individuals suffer with these thoughts and the impact they have on their life all alone. This does not need to be the case though. With help from a therapist who specializes in body dysmorphic disorder, you can learn to confront your perceived imperfections, find a place of acceptance, and learn how to interact with your thoughts and your body in a different way.
Your Appearance Does Not Need To Interfere With Your Life
Most people have something that they do not like about their appearance; however, for individuals with body dysmorphic disorder, these imperfections interfere significantly with their life. The ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America) reports that BDD affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population, which equates to about 1 in 50 people.*
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences preoccupation with minor or imagined defects in their appearance. This focus makes it difficult to engage in other desirable activities. And individuals may turn to repetitive, compulsive behaviors in order to try to “undo” their perceived problem.
Where Does Body Dysmorphic Disorder Come From?
The exact cause of BDD is unclear, but we do know that biological and behavioral/environmental factors can contribute. For example, individuals that have a genetic predisposition (another family member having an anxiety disorder) might be at a higher risk.
Past life experiences (abuse, trauma, bullying, etc.) could also contribute to an increased focus on one’s appearance. And since society and social media place a huge focus and emphasis on looks, it is easy to fall into comparison, feeling shame and disgust. Engaging in compulsive behaviors and avoidance, though it might help in the short term, only maintains anxiety in the long run.
Even if the exact cause of BDD is unknown, a therapist specializing in body dysmorphia can help you to learn to better manage the emotional distress of your thoughts, regaining power and control over your life.
Treatment For Body Dysmorphic Disorder Can Help You Confront Your Fears
With body dissatisfaction being broadcasted all over the news and social media and with new diets, gym workout routines, and clothing designs constantly being created to be the next quick fix, it makes sense why someone’s focus can be so much on their looks.
These quick-fix strategies might work in the moment, but they do not get to the root of the issue. And they certainly never help an individual to learn to sit with and manage the anxiety that these thoughts and fears can create.
Body Dysmorphia Treatment: What To Expect
Our counseling sessions are designed to assist individuals with body dysmorphia to learn to accept their appearance as it is. Utilizing evidence-based treatment methods, your therapist will help you address your body dysmorphia, learning to confront your feared bodily imperfections while decreasing the use of compulsions.
We will provide you with psychoeducation about the anxiety cycle. You will also learn how the use of compulsions (reassurance, body checks, surgeries, mirrors) and avoidance are not only ineffective strategies but actually reinforce your anxiety.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Therapy Methods
At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we pride ourselves in providing the most evidence-based interventions. To treat BDD, we utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)—both of which will help you confront your fears in a structured and gradual way.
In CBT, you will learn to identify and challenge unrealistic thoughts and judgments about yourself and the perceived dysmorphia of your body parts. And you will begin seeing the connection between these thoughts, your anxiety, and your behaviors. With assistance from your therapist, you will learn to replace these unhelpful thoughts with more realistic thoughts about your body and appearance.
In ERP treatment, your specialized therapist will help you to change the way that you interact with your fears, allowing you to make decisions regarding your behaviors and your life, not your body dysmorphia. Slowly and gradually, you will learn to confront your fears, sitting with your anxiety, and seeing that, in time, and without the use of compulsions, it will subside.
Throughout therapy, you will learn to find a place of acceptance with your appearance and decrease the use of compulsions, which are only confirming and maintaining focus on your fears. With assistance, this process, hand-in-hand with CBT, will help you to retake your life.
Perhaps You Are Considering Treatment For Your Body Dysmorphia But Still Have Some Concerns…
I understand that these thoughts could be irrational at times, but I have a real defect. Can therapy help me?
One of anxiety’s distortions is to take our thoughts or aspects of our appearance and minimize or maximize them, not allowing us to see the situation from a healthy perspective. You may have a real “defect,” but anxiety has blown it out of proportion, and the behavior you are engaging in is not helping to eliminate the “defect” but growing the anxiety. Together with your therapist, you can learn to accept whatever your body looks like, seeing it through a healthier lens, instead of the distorted lens given to you by your body dysmorphia.
If I have a defect, wouldn’t cosmetic surgery be just as effective?
It is common for people with BDD to believe that cosmetic procedures will help. Many have multiple procedures. While cosmetic surgery might change the way your body part looks, the reality is that, without treatment, this will become a vicious cycle. The procedure usually only provides short-term relief (if it does at all), and then the anxiety is back. In addition, oftentimes, many people with BDD have the need to continue to have additional cosmetic procedures because the defect never looks quite right.
What if treatment is too hard? I can’t think about showing my defect to others.
We will work with you at a pace that is gradual and comfortable for you. We do not begin treatment with exposure practices, and only start these when you have gained the necessary skills and tools to be successful and comfortable at doing these. Our goal is to help you feel successful in the process.
Mirrors and Body Checks Do Not Need To Control Your Life
If anxiety regarding your body and perceived defects have taken over your life, a therapist specializing in body dysmorphia at The OCD & Anxiety Center can help you find the right treatment to alleviate your fears. To address further concerns or schedule an appointment, please call us at (630) 522-3124 or email us at email@example.com.