Recently, it was revealed that actress Meghan Fox struggles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) or body dysmorphia. She stated that she had never loved her body.
So what exactly is BDD? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the primary diagnostic guide for mental health professionals, BDD is a mental health problem characterized by excessive concerns about perceived flaws or imperfections in one’s physical appearance. Individuals with this issue have a distorted perception of their own appearance, even though there may be no significant flaws or imperfections visible to others.
“Individuals with BDD are often obsessed with small details of their appearance, such as facial shape, nose size, body shape, or other body parts. They may frequently check their appearance in mirrors or try to conceal their ‘flaws’ in certain ways, such as wearing excessive makeup or covering outfits,” psychologist Aisha Sekar Lazuardini Rachmanie explained.
Rachmanie, a lecturer at the UGM Faculty of Psychology, said that BDD differs from general concerns about body image. Individuals with BDD tend to have persistent and distressing thoughts about themselves. This condition causes significant distress and can affect individual behavior and functioning.
BDD is considered one of the mental health conditions that individuals with a family history of BDD or other anxiety disorders are vulnerable to. The twin study by Enander et al. (2017) showed a moderate possibility of BDD being genetically inherited.
“BDD also tends to occur in adolescents and adults, especially in females,” she said.
In addition to family history, several factors can trigger vulnerability to BDD, such as traumatic experiences like physical or verbal abuse related to appearance. Additionally, environmental factors, such as cultural pressures, which include unrealistic beauty standards or excessive focus on physical appearance, play a role.
“These factors can contribute to the development of BDD,” she explained.
Rachmanie mentioned that several signs point to BDD, one of which is an excessive preoccupation with physical appearance. There is a tendency to constantly and excessively worry about perceived flaws or imperfections in one’s physical appearance. Additionally, individuals often focus too much on specific body parts, such as the face, skin, hair, nose, body size, or other body parts.
Another is a distorted perception of appearance. Individuals with BDD often have inaccurate or distorted perceptions of their appearance. They tend to see themselves as much worse than how others actually see them. This can lead to excessive anxiety and dissatisfaction.
Furthermore, they often engage in mirror-checking or mirror avoidance. They may frequently check their mirror appearance for flaws or small changes. On the other hand, some individuals altogether avoid mirrors out of fear of seeing what they perceive as imperfections.
Next is the behavior of altering one’s appearance. There is a tendency to hide or fix perceived flaws in various ways.
“They may be overly obsessed with using excessive makeup to cover up something they feel is lacking, even if there might be none. They wear clothing that covers specific body parts, or they may engage in repetitive cosmetic procedures,” she added.
Rachmanie stated that BDD significantly impacts individuals who suffer from it. This disorder can cause emotional distress. BDD sufferers are vulnerable to symptoms of depression, anxiety, or high levels of stress. They may also experience feelings of shame, despair, or worthlessness due to dissatisfaction with their appearance. Emotional well-being is disrupted, which can negatively affect mood and daily life.
BDD can also result in a decreased quality of life for the sufferers. It can hinder the overall quality of life. Individuals may struggle with social relationships, participating in social activities, or carrying out daily activities due to appearance-related anxiety.
“They may avoid social situations, feel isolated, or have difficulty feeling comfortable with themselves,” she explained.
Individuals with BDD also have a higher risk of developing eating disorders. Excessive dissatisfaction with their appearance and concerns about their body can trigger unhealthy eating patterns or disordered eating behaviors.
So what should you do if you suspect you have BDD? Rachmanie advises against self-diagnosis. If you experience symptoms that suggest BDD, she recommends seeking professional help without hesitation. With proper treatment, including therapy and, if necessary, medication, the negative impact of BDD can be reduced, and quality of life can be improved.
Rachmanie mentioned several actions that can help reduce or prevent the onset of BDD. First, education and understanding are crucial. Learning about BDD and the symptoms and associated risk factors can help recognize early signs and seek help when needed.
Second, maintaining a healthy mindset is essential. Practice self-acceptance, self-love, and appreciation for the uniqueness and beauty in every individual.
Third, try building self-confidence. Build self-confidence and focus on abilities, talents, and other positive qualities, not just physical appearance.
Fourth, maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes engaging in regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a balance between work and rest.
Fifth, seek social support. Foster healthy relationships with supportive and understanding individuals. Seeking support from family, friends, or support groups can help manage stress and maintain mental health.
Sixth, avoid excessive social comparison. Avoid comparing oneself too much to others, primarily through social media.
“Remember that images presented on social media often do not reflect reality,” she emphasized.
Rachmanie added that there are several things to avoid to prevent the emergence of BDD—first, excessive worry about physical appearance. Redirect attention from extreme concerns about appearance to positive and constructive activities.
The second is excessive mirror-checking. Limit the time spent in front of mirrors and avoid excessively checking one’s physical appearance.
The third is to limit exposure to images and content that trigger dissatisfaction with appearance. Reduce exposure to media that emphasizes unrealistic physical beauty.
“Don’t hesitate to seek help. If you experience disturbing symptoms or have excessive concerns about your appearance, seek professional help from trained psychologists or psychiatrists,” she concluded.