Overview

Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized by an excessive concern over either a very minor or completely imagined “flaw” in one’s appearance. This preoccupation is not restricted to concerns over weight or body fat, as in an eating disorder, and it causes significant distress and problems in functioning. This disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, or the fear of having a deformity. Informally, the condition is referred to as “imagined ugliness.” The disorder manifests roughly equally in males and females.

Symptoms

  • Extreme preoccupation with physical appearance, or persistent belief that a minor or imagined flaw makes one “ugly”
  • Shame regarding appearance
  • Frequent examination in front of the mirror (or an aversion toward looking in the mirror)
  • Excessive grooming and use of cosmetics
  • Reassurance-seeking
  • Comparing appearance to other people
  • Refusal to appear in pictures
  • Desire to “correct flaws” with cosmetic surgery
  • Depression
  • Social anxiety
  • Significant distress or problems with age-appropriate functioning

Treatment

Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In severe cases, when a child or adolescent is in danger of harming herself, psychiatric hospitalization may be required. Cosmetic surgery is not believed to be a successful treatment for body dysmorphic disorder; after surgery for one “flaw” in appearance a child or adolescent may begin obsessing over a new such “flaw.”

 

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