Mental Health Awareness week 2019 focuses on body image. We have brought in Registered Health Psychologist, Joanna Konstantopoulou to explain what is Body Dysmorphic Disorder and how therapies help to overcome the disorder.
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Misunderstood as vain or shallow, someone with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) may additionally contend with terrible feelings of self-loathing and frustration. Certain studies suggest that up to one in 50 people suffer from BDD. Perfectly good-looking people see themselves and their reflections in a horribly distorted manner as if through some monstrous fairground mirror. They may be perfectly proportioned, but they will see themselves as too fat, too thin, or as deeply unattractive. Everyday situations such as catching a bus or being in public in some other way may prove a tremendous ordeal, with debilitating feelings of continuously being judged harshly by others.
First recorded in the 19th century, a genetic predisposition may be responsible in some. Then childhood teasing may be partially to blame in others. As with many things, BDD likely results from a host of converging factors.
How CBT therapy works?
Cognitive-behavioural therapy has shown itself to be an effective strategy in coping with and overcoming BDD. Dealing directly with habitual thought patterns long taken for granted by the patient, CBT works on the premise that deeply ingrained behavioural patterns are inextricably linked with the thoughts we have become accustomed to think, and that our behaviour may be modified by altering those deeply ingrained thought patterns by means of professionally guided exercises. Thought patterns are, of course, developed over many years, and so a high degree of determination is required by both the sufferer and practitioner. But success is possible.
Other therapies will attack symptoms first and root out the extreme behaviours commonly associated with BDD. For example, a patient may make mirrors less accessible to force themselves to stop looking at their reflection.
On the other hand, some therapies encourage exposure to feared situations. When the long-feared response either does not occur, or is at least considerably less traumatic than anticipated, the negative reaction often diminishes into something far more manageable.
Since it was first recognised in the 19th century, techniques for dealing with BDD have been fine-tuned. Someone who feels they may be suffering needn’t feel helpless. It is a disorder from which others already have successfully recovered and from which many more undoubtedly will.