Body dysmorphic disorder

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable. But you may feel so ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.

When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day. Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life.

You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaw. Afterward, you may feel a temporary satisfaction, but often the anxiety returns and you may resume searching for a way to fix your perceived flaw.

Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

You may obsess over one or more parts of your body. The feature that you focus on may change over time. The most common features people obsess about include:

Insight about body dysmorphic disorder varies. You may recognize that your beliefs about your perceived flaws may not be true, or think that they probably are true, or be absolutely convinced that they’re true.

Body dysmorphic disorder typically starts in the early teenage years and it affects both males and females. An obsession that body build is too small or not muscular enough (muscle dysmorphia) occurs almost exclusively in males.

Shame and embarrassment about your appearance may keep you from seeking treatment for body dysmorphic disorder. But if you have any signs or symptoms, see your health care provider or a mental health professional.

Body dysmorphic disorder usually doesn’t get better on its own, and if untreated, it may get worse over time, leading to severe depression, anxiety and extensive medical bills, and may lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

It’s not known specifically what causes body dysmorphic disorder. Like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphic disorder may result from a combination of causes, such as:

Certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering body dysmorphic disorder, including:

Complications that may be caused by or associated with body dysmorphic disorder include, for example:

There’s no known way to prevent body dysmorphic disorder. However, because body dysmorphic disorder often starts in the early teenage years, identifying the disorder early and starting treatment may be of some benefit.

Long-term maintenance treatment also may help prevent a relapse of body dysmorphic disorder symptoms.

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Body dysmorphic disorder

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