SWISS MEDICAL EXPERTISE: ZURICH, MALLORCA, LONDON, NEW YORK

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We all have days when we think we don’t look our best or feel insecure about a particular aspect of our appearance. But if you catch yourself spending an unhealthy amount of time obsessing over, concealing, or attempting to correct a perceived flaw, you might have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Around one in every 50 individuals continue to live with BDD in silence. While the condition affects all genders and ages, most cases begin in early adolescence.

If you suffer from body dysmorphia, you may notice a huge gap between your perception of your body and what others tell you. Even if certain aspects of your appearance seem ugly or abnormal to you, your loved ones may not necessarily see you the same way. Most people acknowledge that their worries are baseless but can still not escape the anxiety and stress their body image causes them.

If this sounds like you or someone around you, do not be quick to label yourself as crazy or self-obsessed. BDD is a real psychiatric issue, and treatment is available to recover from it. Keep reading to learn more about the disorder and how to deal with BDD in the best possible way.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) refers to a psychological condition where an individual becomes preoccupied with their self-image, particularly with a minor or imagined defect in their physical appearance. As a part of this disorder, you may become obsessed with any part of the body like skin, hair, face, stomach, and chest.

BDD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) due to similarities in neurobiology, symptoms, treatment responses, and comorbidities.

Also known as “imagined ugliness,” BDD affects both men and women, typically beginning in the early years of adulthood. The sufferers of this disorder consider themselves physically unattractive and find it difficult to interact with others. They constantly fear humiliation and ridicule due to their appearance and suffer from co-existing issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Some common symptoms of BDD include:

  • Avoiding mirrors or constantly checking yourself in the mirror
  • Constantly exercising
  • Picking at your skin with tweezers or fingers
  • Trying to conceal your “flawed” body part through makeup, scarf, or hat
  • Constantly comparing yourself with others
  • Not believing others when they say you look fine
  • Always asking other people whether you look OK
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Refusing to leave the house, especially during the daytime
  • Going for unnecessary plastic surgeries
  • Consulting with multiple doctors about your appearance
  • Feeling depressed, ashamed, or anxious
  • Suicidal thoughts

One of the biggest misconceptions about BDD or any other mental illness is that recovery is impossible. Mentioned below are some realistic tips to cope with this

Avoid Self-Isolation

Body dysmorphia often makes individuals feel insecure about how they appear. As a result, many of them wish to isolate themselves from others. Isolation is one of the worst things that can affect a mental health illness. It not only worsens the severity of the illness but also increases the risk of making impulsive decisions that may bring more harm to the afflicted person. Hence, find people who support you and lean on them instead of cutting them off.

Seek Help from a Nutritionist

Your daily diet can influence your mental and physical health. People with an underlying BDD are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder which can bring about its own health complications. Eating things that make you feel good is the best way to prevent these consequences. An easy way to find out which food groups to choose is by contacting a nutritionist. These food professionals can help you create healthy meal plans tailored to your needs.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise plays a significant role in improving mental health by releasing endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce pain and induce feelings of pleasure and euphoria. At the same time, these tiny chemical entities also improve heart health and help you maintain good physical health. However, because many people with BDD tend to over-exercise, it is best if you join a gym and work out under the supervision of a trainer.

Practice Meditation

Meditation works like magic in managing anxiety, stress, or negative thoughts that might feed into body dysmorphia. Just like other mental illnesses, BDD can torment your mind and force you into negative thinking. However, with regular meditation, you can break through this negativity and gain more positivity, patience, and perspective.

Maintain a Journal

Journaling is an excellent way to express emotions and thoughts without acting on them. It allows you to release the increasing stress level without indulging in risky behaviours.

Get Professional Help

While all self-help tips for BDD can make a difference in a person’s life, getting professional help is still the most effective advice for complete recovery. Joining a dedicated rehab that deals with this mental disorder can help you learn healthy coping techniques to combat negative behaviours and thoughts.

BDD often requires an accurate and precise diagnosis to get suitable treatment. Because most individuals with this disorder hide their compulsions and obsessions from others, misdiagnosing it has become quite common. This is why it is critical to be open and honest with your caregivers and physicians about your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours regarding your body and what you perceive to be wrong with it. If you are not already in touch with a mental health care provider, get in touch with your primary care physician first. Your primary doctor may wish to conduct a medical evaluation first, followed by a referral to a suitable specialist or a rehabilitation centre to cure body dysmorphia.

The most appropriate treatment plan to get over body dysmorphia involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy

Of the multiple types of psychotherapy available at BDD treatment centres, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been the most effective. CBT equips patients with healthy tools and coping techniques to manage their negative and irrational thinking patterns. A therapist helps such people turn their negative thoughts and behaviours about their bodies into positive ones.

A particular type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is used to manage people with BDD and coexisting OCD. ERP involves confronting situations that trigger irrational concerns in patients, such as encouraging them to go out in public without covering their perceived flaws. This therapy also teaches people to resist their urges of hiding these shortcomings and helps them learn how to deal with body dysmorphia without seeking reassurance from others.

Medication

Most rehab programs commonly used antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to tackle BDD’s obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. These medications are partially effective as BDD is related to chemical imbalances in the brain.

A psychiatrist at rehab may prescribe a gradually increasing amount of antidepressants to check how well a person responds to and tolerates them. Sometimes, they may prescribe other medications, depending on the individual symptoms. If the symptoms become too intense, unmanageable or interruptive, inpatient treatment might be warranted.

To overcome body dysmorphia and get the most out of your treatment, follow the tips mentioned below:

  • Do not skip any therapy session, even if you do not wish to engage in a conversation
  • Learn as much as you can about your disorder and how it affects your daily life and health
  • Take any prescribed medication as directed, and do not stop or alter the dose without consulting a doctor. You may develop withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly discontinue the medication or re-acquire the symptoms of BDD
  • Avoid seeking solace in drugs or alcohol as they may interact with your medications
  • Look out for common triggers and pay attention to warning signs so you can learn to overcome them with the help of your therapist.

Body dysmorphic disorder is no less painful than any other mental health illness. Those diagnosed with it often experience multiple symptoms underneath the guise of perfection, such as emotional dysregulation, pervasive sadness, poor self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. Luckily, body dysmorphia help is available across the UK in the form of independently working rehab centres. These treatment centres offer individuals with BDD to take control of their behaviours to support positive mental health.

If you or someone you know are struggling with body dysmorphia, know that you are not alone. The condition is exceptionally pervasive and even more common than schizophrenia and anorexia. However, this does not mean you will stay trapped in this mind-crippling disorder for life. With a suitable rehabilitation program, you can easily make the necessary changes to live a happy life. Do not wait for any more. Reach out to the rehab of your choice today to learn more about the body dysmorphia treatment program.

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