Body Dysmorphia Therapy Online
What is body dysmorphia?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a psychological condition categorized within the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders section in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is characterized by a distorted and obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s physical appearance. These concerns are often magnified to an extent that others might not understand, making the emotional burden even more profound.
Common symptoms of BDD include compulsive behaviours such as excessive mirror checking, grooming, seeking reassurance from others, and comparing oneself to others. These actions are driven by an overwhelming need to alleviate the distress caused by perceived flaws, which can range from minor imperfections to imagined deformities. While BDD can affect any part of the body, the skin, hair, nose, and weight are frequently targeted areas of concern.
BDD does not discriminate and can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background. However, it often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. People with a history of low self-esteem, perfectionism, or traumatic experiences related to their appearance may be more susceptible to developing BDD. Additionally, societal pressures, media influences, and unrealistic beauty standards can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and trigger the onset of the disorder.
While the path to recovery can be challenging, many individuals with BDD experience significant improvements in their symptoms and overall well-being with the right treatment and support.
When to seek help for body dysmorphia?
Seeking help for body dysmorphic disorder is crucial when the preoccupation with your perceived flaws starts to interfere with your daily life, well-being, and overall functioning. If you find that your concerns about your appearance are causing you significant distress, and anxiety, and affecting your relationships, work, or social activities, it’s a sign that it’s time to seek professional assistance. Here are some specific indicators that suggest it’s time to reach out for help:
- Obsessive preoccupation: If you find yourself spending a significant amount of time each day obsessing over perceived flaws in your appearance, to the point where it becomes difficult to focus on other aspects of your life.
- Compulsive behaviours: Engaging in repetitive behaviours like mirror checking, grooming, or seeking constant reassurance from others about your appearance.
- Distorted perception: When your concerns about your appearance seem exaggerated or out of proportion to others, and you’re unable to see yourself objectively.
- Avoidance and isolation: If you’re avoiding social situations, activities, or events because you’re anxious about your appearance and how others might perceive you.
- Impact on well-being: If your emotional well-being is significantly compromised due to your concerns about your appearance, leading to feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression.
- Diminished quality of life: When your overall quality of life is declining because your obsession with your appearance is preventing you from enjoying things you used to like.
- Interference with relationships: If your relationships are being strained or disrupted due to your preoccupation with your appearance, and it’s affecting your ability to connect with others.
- Decreased productivity: If your work or academic performance is suffering because your thoughts about your appearance are consuming your focus and energy.
- Suicidal thoughts: If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide due to the distress caused by your appearance concerns, it’s critical to seek help immediately.
Therapy for body dysmorphia
CBT for body dysmorphia
Therapy is a crucial component of treating body dysmorphia, as it provides individuals with the tools and strategies to challenge distorted thoughts and behaviours related to their appearance. One of the most effective forms of therapy for body dysmorphia is cognitive-behavioural therapy. Here’s how it works:
- Psychoeducation: Understanding BDD is the first step. Therapists educate individuals about the disorder, helping them recognize that their concerns about their appearance are distorted and not based on reality.
- Thought challenging: Individuals learn to identify and challenge their negative and distorted thoughts about their appearance. This involves examining the evidence for and against their beliefs and developing more balanced and realistic perspectives.
- Exposure and response prevention (ERP): Exposure involves gradually confronting situations that trigger anxiety or distress related to appearance. ERP helps individuals resist the urge to engage in compulsive behaviours (like mirror checking or reassurance-seeking) that temporarily alleviate anxiety but reinforce the underlying distress.
- Mirror retraining: This technique involves practising looking in mirrors without engaging in critical self-evaluation or compulsive behaviours. It helps individuals learn to see themselves objectively and reduce the avoidance of mirrors.
- Mindfulness and acceptance: Learning mindfulness techniques can help individuals stay present and reduce rumination on appearance-related concerns. Acceptance involves acknowledging thoughts and feelings without judgment.
- Reassurance reduction: Reducing the reliance on seeking reassurance from others helps individuals break the cycle of compulsive behaviours and anxiety.
- Homework and practice: Between therapy sessions, individuals practice applying the skills learned in real-life situations. This helps reinforce new behaviours and thought patterns.
Our approach to body dysmorphia counselling
At Psychology Therapy, our approach to body dysmorphia counselling is rooted in compassion and collaboration. We begin with personalized assessments that enable us to craft treatment plans tailored precisely to your unique needs. Our therapists bring together insights from various therapy approaches, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, exposure and response prevention, acceptance and commitment therapy, and compassion-focused therapy. This harmonious integration forms the cornerstone of our comprehensive treatment for body dysmorphia.
Throughout your therapeutic journey, we emphasize a collaborative approach, providing unwavering support while continuously adapting our methods based on your valuable input. This adaptive process ensures that therapy remains attuned to your evolving needs, fostering the cultivation of a healthier body image, self-love, and a profound sense of overall well-being.
Types of body dysmorphia
BDD can manifest in various forms, each with unique focus areas and concerns related to one’s physical appearance. While BDD can affect any part of the body, some specific types or themes of body dysmorphia include:
- Skin-related BDD: This type involves obsessive concerns about the skin’s texture, colour, or overall appearance. Individuals may become fixated on perceived acne, scars, wrinkles, or other blemishes, often engaging in excessive grooming or skincare routines.
- Hair-related BDD: Individuals with this subtype obsess about their hair’s thickness, texture, style, or pattern of hair loss. They might spend excessive time and effort trying to camouflage perceived hair flaws.
- Nose-related BDD: Nose-focused BDD entails preoccupation with the size, shape, or symmetry of the nose. Individuals may believe their nose is disproportionate or unattractive, leading to avoidance of social situations.
- Weight-related BDD: This involves intense distress over weight and body shape. Individuals may perceive themselves as overweight or out of proportion, even when others see them differently. This can lead to restrictive eating, excessive exercise, or unhealthy weight management practices.
- Muscle dysmorphia (bigorexia): Often seen in men, muscle dysmorphia involves an obsession with becoming more muscular and fit. Individuals may perceive themselves as small or weak, despite having a muscular build. This can lead to excessive exercise, steroid use, and bodybuilding.
- Facial features BDD: Individuals with this subtype fixate on specific facial features such as the eyes, lips, chin, or jawline. They may believe these features are unattractive or misshapen, even if others don’t share this perception.
- Multiple body parts BDD: Some individuals experience distress related to multiple areas of their body. They might focus on various features simultaneously, leading to heightened anxiety and compulsive behaviours.
The exact causes of body dysmorphic disorder can result from a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. While the precise origins are not fully known, several factors may contribute to the development of BDD:
- Genetic predisposition: There appears to be a genetic component to BDD, as it often runs in families. Individuals with close relatives who have experienced BDD or other related mental health conditions might be at a higher risk of developing the disorder themselves.
- Neurobiological factors: Certain brain abnormalities, neurotransmitter imbalances, and alterations in brain circuitry may play a role in the distorted perception of appearance and the obsessive thoughts associated with BDD.
- Environmental influences: Societal and cultural pressures, including media portrayals of unrealistic beauty standards, can contribute to the development of BDD. Constant exposure to these images can shape perceptions of what is considered “normal” or “ideal” in terms of appearance.
- Perfectionism: Individuals with perfectionistic tendencies might be more susceptible to developing BDD. Striving for an unrealistic standard of beauty and feeling dissatisfied with any perceived flaws could contribute to the disorder.
- Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem may be more vulnerable to developing BDD. This is because a negative self-perception can lead to an increased focus on perceived flaws and a heightened emotional response to these concerns.
- Traumatic experiences: Past traumatic events, particularly those related to appearance or body image, can trigger or exacerbate BDD. Experiencing bullying, teasing, or criticism about one’s appearance can contribute to the development of the disorder.
The symptoms of body dysmorphia encompass a range of emotional, cognitive, and behavioural aspects, all revolving around an intense preoccupation with perceived flaws in physical appearance. Common symptoms of BDD include:
- Obsessive preoccupation: Individuals with BDD constantly think about their perceived flaws, spending a substantial amount of time each day focused on their appearance.
- Compulsive behaviours: Engaging in rituals to hide or fix perceived flaws, such as excessive makeup application, wearing specific clothing, or attempting to cover up certain body parts.
- Negative self-image: They have an overwhelmingly negative view of their appearance, believing that their flaws are highly noticeable and that others judge them based on these perceived imperfections.
- Mirror checking: BDD sufferers frequently check their appearance in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, trying to validate or alleviate their concerns.
- Excessive grooming: Engaging in repetitive grooming behaviours, such as combing hair, applying makeup, or picking at the skin, as a way to improve or correct their appearance.
- Avoidance: Individuals may avoid social situations, gatherings, or events due to fears of being judged or ridiculed based on their appearance.
- Seeking reassurance: BDD sufferers often seek reassurance from others about their appearance, continuously asking for feedback or confirmation that their flaws are not as severe as they believe.
- Comparisons: They may compare their appearance with others, often unfavourably. These comparisons can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.
- Emotional distress: Feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, and frustration are common among individuals with BDD due to their intense dissatisfaction with their appearance.
Do you offer body dysmorphia therapy near me?
We offer online body dysmorphia therapy because this way we can reach you out whenever you are in the world. We are trained in the United Kingdom and provide cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).