Picking apart self-image, worrying about what others think and allowing such worries to control life to some is seen as vanity, yet in truth are the impacts of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder which distorts self-image, worth and confidence surrounding personal aesthetics. To onlookers, flaws are unnoticeable and may in fact be longed for. Yet for someone with body dysmorphia, those flaws are heightened, are consuming and are compared with personal ideologies of beauty.

People with severe body dysmorphia are more likely to develop substance abuse as a result of poor mental health. Find out more about how we can help at Nova Recovery.

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In today’s pressurised world around social media, filtering images, plastic surgery, and definite notions of attractiveness, body dysmorphic disorder rates are increasing, especially in teens and young adults.

Highly associated with compulsive behaviours, mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders and obsessive comparison disorders, BDD can be life-altering, can cause significant worries for health, and can amount to an unhealthy relationship with oneself.

As it is an independent mental health disorder, sourcing appropriate support and treatment is encouraged, as therapies will differ from such mood disorders and eating disorders.

Accepting substance abuse and body dysmorphic disorder treatment here at Nova Recovery will be advantageous. We offer dual diagnosis programmes to help treat people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction and also work through BDD. Work on self-love, improve self-acceptance and improve your physical and mental health with our help.

What is body dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is an anxiety-related condition, where obsessive outlooks are pinned on one’s image. It can in fact affect all genders, age groups, and backgrounds, but is more common among teenagers and young adults due to societal pressures and standards of beauty.

Worrying about our body image is normal, to a degree. Self-care and hygiene are key focuses for many of us, to present ourselves in a way that promotes self-confidence and worth. However, obsessively worrying over such efforts differentiates average outlooks and those caused by body dysmorphic disorder.

Someone who’s suffering from body dysmorphia may be branded as self-obsessed, when in fact they are obsessing over areas of their body or face in they deem as ugly, unattractive or abnormal. With such outlooks, the desire to change will commonly follow the impacts of BDD, while comparing to those who are highlighted as attractive.

For onlookers, it can be difficult to understand body dysmorphia and also accredit it as a mental health diagnosis. Yet, it is firmly a condition that is causing significant suffering, which is distorting and deteriorating self-love, image and confidence and is increasing further life-limiting risks for sufferers.

Through such suffering, addiction and body dysmorphic disorder treatment will be recommended to tackle triggers and psychological responses of BDD.

What causes body dysmorphic disorder?

Body dysmorphia can be caused by genetic vulnerabilities and chemical instability in the brain. Resembling alternative mental health issues, the causes of body dysmorphic disorder are uncontrollable.

However, with the rise of social media, active comparison, indispensable content, and with even more defined exposure to unrealistic beauty, causes of BDD are forming through societal expectations and taught behaviour.

Trauma surrounding bullying and online trolling are prevalent motivators of negative body image, which if consistently exposed, can deter mental health stability and outlooks.

Pressures around social media and the image that it reflects have also contributed to the materialisation of body dysmorphic disorder, as comparison can be easily done.

As BDD is usually encountered by those with pre-existing susceptibilities of anxiety and OCD, such pressure is found to cause fixation on the obsessive comparison, increasing the development of BDD.

Symptoms of body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphic disorder symptoms surround the negligence of or devalue of self-image and awareness. Such feelings can present themselves in many different ways, yet there are some common actions that reflect the negative outlooks caused by BDD.

  • Consistently worrying about self-image
  • Spending time in the mirror, looking at oneself and potentially looking at ways to change body image
  • Worrying about what other people see and think about personal body image
  • Consistently looking to mask flaws, which to onlookers, will not be noticeable
  • Obsessively comparing oneself to others, especially those who are deemed attractive
  • Looking into extensive plastic surgery to make such changes
  • Utilising unhealthy coping strategies to blur out negative emotions

The above symptoms are definite reflections of body dysmorphic disorder. Many individuals will also experience physical symptoms of anxiety, depression and panic as a result of the nature of body dysmorphia as a mental health condition.

Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder can become controlling, life-limiting and unbearable to live with, as for sufferers, their body image will take priority over other areas of life.

This will not be down to vanity, but down to the compulsive and obsessive characteristics of BDD. In this instance, body dysmorphic disorder treatment will be recommended, with a focus on mindfulness and well-being therapies. At Nova we offer dual diagnosis treatments for people with addiction who also suffer from mental health conditions such as BDD.

Body dysmorphic disorder treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a prevalent treatment that delves deeper into emotional responses, suitable for those who are experiencing both BDD and anxiety/depression.

Mindfulness and well-being therapies may also be personally recommended as body dysmorphic disorder treatment, as for those suffering, a distorted image of reality is common.

Mindfulness, along with the positives of improved wellbeing can promote greater presence, clarity and gratitude of oneself.

In tandem with therapy, prescription medications may be used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, while offering greater chemical stability in the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors will usually be prescribed as a management tool through moments of anxiety.

As body dysmorphic disorder surrounds emotional and psychological responses and outlooks, sourcing credible treatment is a must, which focuses on improving such outlooks.

At Nova Recovery, we’re here as a specialist residential rehab for addiction and mental health rehabilitation, offering appropriate dual diagnosis programmes which can offer body dysmorphic disorder treatment.

If you’re worrying about your self-image, if you’re obsessing over the way you look, and if such symptoms are controlling your life and causing substance abuse, reach out for compassionate and confidential support.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: July 10, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.