The phenomenal mental illness of body dysmorphic syndrome – also known as body dysmorphic disorder – is a disorder that can take many forms and affect a wide variety of people. It is a chronic illness that is sometimes referred to as ‘imagined ugliness’ and is still struggling to be understood by doctors today.
Body dysmorphic disorder is when an individual obsesses negatively over their appearance. The source of this obsession is a physical flaw, which can either be real or imagined. People suffering from body dysmorphic disorder obsess for hours over tiny flaws, imagined imperfections or other appearance issues. Many of these individuals fear being deformed, or are already under the impression that well-functioning and well-formed body parts are deformed. Often, patients with this illness are so self-conscious, embarrassed or ashamed of their supposed appearance that they fear being seen by others entirely. Sufferers of body dysmorphic disorder often focus on key areas of their body as deformed or ugly, including their face, hair, nose, genitals or skin. Acne, skin issues and baldness are usually a primary focus. In some cases, women will obsess about breast size while men act the same for muscle size. However, any body part can become the source of an obsession.
Individuals that have body dysmorphic disorder will often go out of their way to groom and fix their appearance. They will spend hours in front of a mirror or avoid them altogether; have extensive cosmetic surgery or wear too much makeup, and act extremely self-conscious, self-deprecating and self-aware. They often seek approval from peers for their appearance, fear pictures and may even suffer nervous disorders, like picking at their skin.
There are several proposed reasons for body dysmorphic disorder, though the true cause of the illness is still unknown. Usually, the illness will result from a combination of several factors, including: chemical imbalances, which effect mood and personal perception; low self-esteem or more serious mental disorders, such as depression; environmental factors, such as social and media standards, peer interactions and family issues, and developmental and genetic problems. Much research has gone into the genetic area of body dysmorphic disorder, as those that suffer from the disorder are more likely to have family members suffering from the same illness.
Those suffering from body dysmorphic disorder should be treated immediately, as they can suffer serious side effects from the illness. Suicidal tendencies, social avoidance, eating disorders, anxiety issues and much more has been linked to this disorder. After examination and psychological evaluation, patients can receive treatment in the form of behavioral therapy or certain medications (such as antidepressants), which will help regulate brain chemistry.