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Body Dysmorphia… What is it and do I have it?

If you’ve been watching the new season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, you might have heard Kim K talking about “body dysmorphia”, after seeing some unflattering paparazzi photos of herself on holiday in Mexico.

“It’s just wild; there are pictures of me where I look so good and it is just from a different angle. It’s literally giving me, like, body dysmorphia,” said the reality TV queen. “I think people think that I’m so confident, and I’m so secure, and I’m so this, but I’m not. I’m so insecure that I just can’t take it.”

Kim admitted that crippling worries over her body had caused her to stay home and avoid seeing people, but what exactly is body dysmorphia, and how do you know if you have it? Well, its official title is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and here’s what you need to know…

What is Body Dysmorphia / BDD?

The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation describes BDD as “a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance.” So, rather than being able to accept your imperfections, you become transfixed on them – even if nobody else can see them at all.

BDD is a serious condition that can become debilitating, as often sufferers will begin to avoid social situations and even school or work because they can’t bear for others to see their ‘flaw’.

What are the most common causes or triggers?

Although the exact cause of Body Dysmorphic Disorder is not known, it’s thought to be triggered by bullying and teasing, though a lack of funded research into the condition has made it difficult to find a definitive answer.

The most common age to develop BDD is 13, with nose, hair and skin proving the most concerning area for sufferers, though every case is different.

How do you know if you have body dysmorphia / BDD?

There are many symptoms of BDD, including:

  • Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about your appearance every day. ‘Excessive’ is defined by the BDD Foundation as “more than an hour”.
  • Checking and fixing your appearance constantly, whether that be looking in the mirror, picking at your skin or adjusting your hair.
  • Trying to hide your ‘flaws’ with make-up, the way you dress or the way you carry yourself.
  • Regularly critiquing and worrying about how part of your body looks – though generally not relating to weight.
  • Anxiety and stress caused by worrying about your appearance.
  • Avoiding social situations, mirrors or specific activities because of how you feel about your appearance.

How do you treat BDD?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be used to treat mild BDD, but more severe forms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder often require medication, both of which can be described by your doctor.

Is it just girls that suffer from BDD?

No, definitely not! Almost as many men as women suffer from BDD, with about 2% of the total population falling victim to the condition to some degree.

Where can I find out more information about BDD?

If you think you might be suffering from BDD, you should consult your doctor, and seek more information at bddfoundation.org.

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