The great artist Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection – you'll never reach it.” Wise words, but many people fret so much about their imperfections that it interferes with their day-to-day functioning. These folks suffer from a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
What we might first interpret as merely lacking a positive outlook or even false modesty is actually a serious psychological disorder. People suffering from BDD cannot control their negative thoughts and disbelieve it when others tell them they “look fine.” These people will attempt to isolate themselves from others, avoid any kind of social situation, and even miss school or work because of bodily imperfections they perceive they have. Extreme cases have been known to undergo unnecessary cosmetic surgery to get themselves “fixed,” or attempt suicide.
You will not be shocked to learn that BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens. You may, however, be surprised that research indicates it affects men and women equally. In toto, about one percent of the U.S. population suffer from BDD.
It is common for BDD sufferers to develop some type of repetitive or compulsory behavior which they feel will mask or improve their perceived flaw. These actions may include:
· camouflaging the imperfection clothing, makeup, hair, etc.
· seeking surgery
· avoiding mirrors
· skin picking
· excessive grooming
· excessive exercise
· changing clothes excessively
There is no way someone can self-diagnose BDD, and it's tough enough for psychiatrists to do it. BDD is often mis-diagnosed as depression, an eating disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder – all of which share symptoms with it. It is also possible for a BDD sufferer to be afflicted by these other anxiety disorders as well.
If you believe your child suffers from BDD, talk to a mental health professional who will be able to sort through the symptoms and determine a proper course of action. Likely treatments may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, through which the BDD sufferer can be made to recognize irrational thoughts and change negative thinking patterns; and antidepressant medications that can help relieve the obsessive and compulsive symptoms of BDD.