Humans are visual beings and, in today’s world, much emphasis is placed on the way one looks. Indeed, few would deny a desire to have some aspect of their appearance altered. However, imagine looking in the mirror to discover a reflection so repulsive that the mere thought of leaving the house is frightening, and suicide seems to be the only escape. This is the morbid reality for many individuals who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a condition where the affected person feels deformed or hideously ugly, yet appears normal to everyone else.
BDD is a somatoform disorder characterised by a preoccupation with a slight or imagined defect in one’s appearance, leading to clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning. A number of theories have been used to explain the causes of the disorder. Some emphasise the role of genetics, neurochemistry and brain abnormalities, while others consider neurocognitive functioning and aspects related to cognition, behaviour and learning. It seems that BDD is the result of a number of biological, psychological and social factors.
Most individuals with BDD report low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and a heightened sensitivity to criticism. Approximately 80% of individuals report having had suicidal ideation at some point during the course of their illness and up to 28% have attempted suicide.
Current treatment methods for BDD include both medication and psychotherapy. Psychological methods include psycho-education and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Do you suffer from BDD? Consider these questions
- Are you concerned about the appearance of some part(s) of your body, which you consider especially unattractive?
- Is your main concern with your appearance other than weight-related?
- If you are at least somewhat concerned, do these concerns preoccupy you? That is, you think about them a lot and they’re hard to stop thinking about?
- Has your physical “defect” often caused you a lot of distress, torment, or pain?
- Has your physical “defect” caused you impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning?
- Has your physical “defect” significantly interfered with your social life?
- Has your physical “defect” significantly interfered with your schoolwork, your job, or your ability to function in your role?
- Do you ever avoid things because of your physical “defect”?
If you think you may be afflicted with this disorder, visit your nearest doctor or clinical psychologist.
Who is Antonia Roos?
Antonia Gueorguieva Roos, originally from Bulgaria, is a Clinical Psychologist in Garsfontein, Pretoria. From the age of five she trained to become a classical musician and excelled in music performance and composition. Along the way she recognised her compelling interest in the human mind and decided to pursue a higher education in psychology. She completed her degrees at the University of Pretoria (BSocSci; BSocSci Hons) and University of Johannesburg (MA Clin Psych) with distinction. Antonia strives to facilitate healing by continually learning and developing as a person, sharing her knowledge and experience, and treating matters of the heart with the highest level of respect and support.