When The Way You Look Becomes an Obsession

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

By on 22 Nov 2007, 08:11 GMT
You look into the mirror and there are so many issues that you would like to change ... The desire of looking good is a normal and positive behavior, but in some cases, the determination to get it goes to extremes, resulting in a mental disease called Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The preoccupation for presenting any physical defect can cause severe discomfort, social and work impairment, and affects many other activities. Because that defect is usually imaginary or an exaggeration of a minimal one, this is also called imaginary ugliness. Because preoccupation for the look is also common in various mental disorders, like depression, nervous anorexia, and obsessive compulsive disorders, diagnosis is hard to make.

BDD affects about 1-2 % of the overall population and 10-15 % of the psychiatric recorded patients. But the tendency is increasing, because of better diagnosis methods and the uptrend of the society for the outward image. Generally, the disorder starts in adolescence and, unlike anorexia, is more common in females.

The obsessive preoccupation for the looks makes BDD patients look persistently into the mirror and in many cases, it induces social isolation, and even suicidal behavior. Of course, many of these patients appeal to plastic surgery. But in most cases, they consider the operation has been useless.

In some cases, BDD can appear very early in a person's life: a 9-year-old boy considered he had yellow teeth, a big belly, and was not pleased with his hair, even if nobody thought the same. The kid spent one hour each morning combing his hair and if the result was not "perfect", he soaked his hair again and repeated the combing, even if he was late for school. When paying a visit to the doctor, in many cases, he crouched himself to see if he could see himself in the cromated surface of a chair.

Magazines, newspapers and TV 'asphyxiate' us with images of the ideal body. By presenting a certain model, people will waste a lot of money on imitating that particular model. And when there's also some pressure from the group, and an idiot comment from a family member, no wonder that some persons have distorted images about the way they look.

There is also another idea that couldn't be farther from the truth, namely that if a person is not stylish or elegant, the others see him/her as not interesting. But friends are not chosen based on looks. It can be a weak factor at the beginning, but friendship is based on completely different values. Plus, in the end, nobody will be forever youngÂ…