What It’s Like to Suffer Daily With Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a psychological disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the new category called obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, BDD is “characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.” In America, an estimated 5 million to 10 million people have body dysmorphic disorder, which is equal to nearly one in fifty people. BDD typically begins during adolescence and most commonly presents in children around age twelve to thirteen years old. Someone with BDD perceives a nonexistent or slight imperfection as a significant and prominent physical flaw, which can cause emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.
Every person is unique and a teen suffering from body dysmorphic disorder has the propensity to experience a range of symptoms. BDD stems from and can cause, an array of emotional, physical, and psychological issues that can interfere with a young person’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life. The daily suffering that results from a young person struggling with body dysmorphic disorder can manifest as engaging in overcompensating behavior modifications, such as any of the following examples:
- Avoiding mirrors
- Prohibiting pictures to be taken
- Repeatedly engaging in grooming activities (e.g., combing hair, shaving, etc.)
- Wearing excessive makeup or growing a beard to cover up the flaw
- Wearing certain types of clothing (e.g., hats, scarves, etc.) to cover up the flaw
- Constantly changing clothes
- Looking for external validation and reassurance by repeatedly asking others for their opinion regarding one’s appearance, but not believing them when they say anything positive
- Compulsively skin picking, using fingernails or tweezer to remove unwanted hair or blemishes
- Silently enduring emotional problems (e.g., depression, feelings of disgust, low self-esteem, anxiety, etc.)
Body dysmorphic disorder can compel people to neglect daily obligations (e.g., miss school), avoid social situations, and self-isolate from loved ones, because of a deep-seated fear that others will notice their flaws. In essence, BDD prohibits a teen from controlling their negative thoughts and causes a teen to perseverate on their real or perceived flaws constantly.
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