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The Imperfect Body: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Body dysmorphic disorder (BMD) is a chronic mental illness where one continues to find imperfections in the body's appearance. In most cases the flaws are very minor but to the individual the appearance is distressing and embarrassing. Body dysmorphic disorder is often referred to as “imagined unattractiveness."

Individuals with BMD continue to focus on their body and its appearance for hours on end. The majority of these individuals seek numerous cosmetic procedures to fix the perceive flaws but the results are never satisfying. Other features of BMD include an intense belief that the body defects are making one look ugly and that others are frequently noticing these defects. These individuals spend an extraordinary amount of time grooming themselves, are very self conscious, refuse to be photographed, avoid social situations, and wear excessive make up to camouflage the perceived flaws. Body features that are often obsessed about are the nose, hair, skin, breasts, moles, muscles and size/shape of genitalia. Over time many individuals become delusional and unrealistic in their expectations. The cause of BMD is not known but it is more common in people where there is a family member with a similar disorder. The disorder also has been linked to childhood mockery, physical, or sexual abuse, low self-esteem or societal pressure about looking good.

It is estimated that nearly 1-5 percent of the population has some degree of BMD and more than 25 percent seek some type of cosmetic procedure. The disorder peaks during adolescence and affects both genders. Untreated BMD leads to depression, suicidal ideations, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia, social isolation, alcohol and drug abuse, and very low self esteem. In addition, these individuals have difficulty developing interpersonal relationships and rarely develop close associations. The majority end up spending their money on unnecessary cosmetic procedures.

The treatment of BMD is difficult because most people are not willing to seek help. Treatment options include some type of psychotherapy and medications.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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