This two-part series is an exploration of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD),or Dysmorphophobia. This second article will take a look at BDD as a mental illness. As well as the difficulty of finding a diagnosis in teens, and the various forms of treatment.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Let’s imagine that you have a small scar on your left lower cheek. You’ve wanted for a long time to have it fixed because you know that whenever anybody looks at you, they’re looking straight at that scar and noticing how atrocious it is. Likely, the way you feel about your face is not this severe. But there are men and women who possess a self-image that is out of proportion to reality. Instead of seeing the scar as a slight physical mark, your concern about it is excessive. Furthermore, your concern about it keeps you from social environments and even impairs your ability to function.
Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder is not considered an Eating Disorder. However, having a body image disturbance is frequently a symptom of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Instead, BDD is a Somatoform Disorder, which is a category of disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual used by clinicians across the country for diagnosing their clients. Somatoform Disorders are mental illnesses that suggest a physical illness yet have no medical or biological explanation. BDD might be a Psychotic Disorder when there is a strong presence of a delusion.
Delusions are false beliefs despite evidence that disproves the belief. Such as the conviction that your face is severely scarred despite having a small, insignificant scar, or no scar at all.
If you think you suffer from a form of BDD, or can see the beginning signs of it, contact a mental health professional or an adult you trust. Some teens might first go to a dermatologist thinking that by repairing the physical problem the issue will go away entirely. However, the physical condition is not the problem; it is the psychological experience you’re having in response to it. Therefore, the best treatment to seek is that of the mental health field, such as a therapist or psychologist.
BDD is often treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that examines the thoughts and beliefs of a patient in order to change his or her associated behavior. The underlying premise of CBT is that thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behavior are intimately related. By thoroughly examining thoughts, particularly those that are related to a specific behavior, and replacing them with healthy ones, the related behavior will also change. With BDD, a therapist might help you explore the thoughts related to the way you see your body. As a result, replace them with new thoughts, facilitating a new body image and sense of self.
Medication, specifically serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SRI’s), which are a form of anti-depressants, is also a treatment method. Often, a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective to help teen body dysmorphic disorder.