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Body dysmorphic disorder: What you need to know

 What you need to know about body dysmorphic disorder (Photo: iStock)

Mental health is an issue that more and more people are aware of these days. It's becoming more and more common to hear that someone you know is struggling with their mental health, or maybe you're the one going through something on a personal level. This trend is very worrying, especially with issues such as the cost of living and worries about health disasters such as COVID adding to the pressure.

The most common types of mental health problems we know about are anxiety and depression. But there are other conditions that affect many people, such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). There's a lot to know about BDD, so let's break it down:

It distorts how you view your body

Just like the name suggests, BDD is a disorder that affects how you perceive yourself. People with this condition deeply criticize themselves for not having the perfect hair, lips, face or basically any part of their body.

For some people, it might be a dislike for a specific part of their body while for others it could be a strong hate for their entire build.

It often starts in the teenage years

Teen years are usually the years that shape your self-esteem. And with BDD, research has found that it starts developing at around 12 or 13 years old.

Experts aren’t fully sure of the cause but it can be connected to genetics, sexual trauma, social media or even experiences like bullying.

Without any awareness and treatment, the obsession may become more severe in adulthood which is a big wake-up call for parents. It’s important to be more aware of the signs associated with this disorder in your children.

It makes you obsessive

The difference between general insecurity and BDD is the level of obsession. You will find yourself doing things like obsessively checking how you look, avoiding mirrors, obsessing over medical procedures to clear ‘’imperfections’’ and avoiding going out in public.

Because of these obsessions, your life will be disrupted. You might even skip work or other important functions for fear of what people will think.

It has a high risk of self-harm

People with body dysmorphia can take extreme measures to fix the problem on a physical level without realizing that it is a mental issue. This is dangerous because it is actually associated with a high risk of self-harm and suicide.

Some people might harm themselves directly by cutting themselves and others can eventually end up taking their lives. This problem might also disguise itself in habits like skin bleaching, extreme tattooing, harmful dieting and willingness to undergo dangerous cosmetic surgeries.

It is treatable

The good news is that no one has to suffer from BDD forever. There are different treatments available for you if you notice that what you’re dealing with is more than just insecurities.

The options often used include taking antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy that can change those negative thought patterns and processes in the brain.

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