If you were to be asked "if you had a magic wand that could change anything about your body, is there anything that you would change?" you would probably come up with something. Indeed, most of us have things about our bodies or how we look that we would rather be different. But for the most part, we tend not to think about those things or worry about them too much. For people with body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, worries about their appearance are often constant and debilitating.
BDD is defined as a pre-occupation with one or more perceived defects in appearance. The pre-occupation causes significant interference in a person's life, often leading to disruptions in occupational and social activities. The pre-occupation tends to involve both mental and behavioural components. What this means is that not only do people with BDD have almost constant thoughts and worries about their perceived defects, but they also engage in rituals, or behaviours that are repetitive and time-consuming, which are aimed at hiding, covering up, or obscuring the perceived defects, checking the perceived defects (e.g. in mirrors and other reflective surfaces), seeking reassurance from others about the perceived defects, or avoiding situations in which the perceived defects might be noticed by others.
Believe it or not, body dysmorphic disorder affects around 2% of the population. One way to get your head around that is to think of a room with 100 people in it, and consider that 2 of them may have BDD. It seems to affect males and females about equally.
The most important thing to know about body dysmorphic disorder is that it is treatable. Let me say that again. BDD is treatable!
I will be updating this post over the coming weeks to cover the evidence-based treatments for BDD, so check back soon for more info. In the meantime, keep in mind that psychological treatment -- with a psychologist who is experienced in treating BDD -- can be immensely helpful. Often, psychological therapy is most helpful when done in combination with taking an anxiety-reducing medication.
If you are looking for expert BDD treatment, or treatment for other body image-related issues, please get in touch with me. Skype consultations are also available for people located outside of Sydney, or in remote and regional areas.