Dysmorphophobia is the fear of imaginary or real deformation of appearance.

Dysmorphophobia (dysmorphophobia) is a disorder in the perception of one's own face or body, which is manifested by the fact that a person is overly concerned about some minor or even imaginary defect in his appearance. A person with body dysmorphic disorder eventually becomes so obsessed with their "defect" that their social and personal life suffers.

Dysmorphophobia: the mirror is deceiving

Dysmorphophobia (literally, “fear of deformation”) can also develop due to an actual defect, which, although insignificant, the person constantly suffers from its presence and evaluates it as a significant drawback. In an attempt to improve or "fix" their appearance, some people resort to plastic surgery, but patients with body dysmorphic disorder are never satisfied with the result.

Clinically, dysmorphophobia is referred to as somatoform disorders - a group of mental illnesses in which a person experiences symptoms of a somatic disease, but they cannot be fully associated with a real physical pathology. Doctors define body dysmorphic disorder as an illness characterized by extreme preoccupation with a minor or imagined defect in one's own appearance, which leads to very real and significant social changes. Professional or other important areas of the patient's life. For example, people with this disorder see themselves as "ugly" or even "ugly", so they tend to avoid contact with others - social interactions cause them a sense of shame and anxiety. Body dysmorphic disorder is a chronic (long-term) disorder that affects men and women equally and typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood.

"Dysmorphophobia Syndrome"

The same disorder is often called a "syndrome", that is, a complex of symptoms, since in its manifestations it is similar to more well-known mental disorders - anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia. All these diseases are united by an inadequate assessment of one's own body, and of the image as a whole, an exaggeratedly picky attitude towards one's appearance, and low self-esteem. Body dysmorphic disorder is common in adolescents, but it also occurs in adults, and, of course, is more often diagnosed in women, although men suffer from this disorder no less often.

In terms of appearance, the most common "problem" areas in people with body dysmorphic disorder can be divided into the following groups:

  • Skin defects - often include wrinkles, scars and scars, acne, post-acne and age spots.
  • Hair problems - anxiety about the quality or lack of hair, as well as the growth of excess body hair (hirsutism).
  • Inadequate facial features - for example, anxiety is often associated with the nose, but anxiety can also be caused by the shape or size of any other part of the face and head.

Statistically, the hair, skin, and nose are most often criticized. Other "problem areas" that are of particular concern to people with body dysmorphic disorder are flaccid muscles, size of the chest, hips, buttocks and the presence of certain body odors, penis size. Dysmorphophobia has various degrees of severity, the extreme of which is already characterized by dysmorphomania.

Dysmorphophobia: symptoms

The symptoms of this disorder can be quite clear and specific. Often they are determined by the nature of an imaginary or exaggerated lack of appearance - for example. Excessive use of camouflage cosmetics is most common among people with a suspected skin defect or constant plucking of body hair with tweezers with an emphasis on "hirsutism". But unfortunately, the symptoms of dysmorphophobia are not always unambiguous, and even a doctor can make a mistake in the diagnosis. So, there are many common, non-specific manifestations regarding obsessive behavior associated with body dysmorphic disorders, but pointing to other disorders.

Dysmorphophobia has some features similar to eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A similarity to obsessive-compulsive disorder is repetitive, compulsive (ritual) behaviors, such as constantly looking at oneself in a mirror or touching one's skin. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to distinguish such pathologies with the naked eye. For example, a person with an eating disorder is more concerned about their weight and body shape, while a person with body dysmorphic disorder is concerned about a specific part of the body. Compulsive, that is, obsessive, behavior associated with body dysmorphic disorder includes the following symptoms:

  • the habit of regularly checking the appearance in mirrors: a person with dysmorphophobia can see several different images in each individual reflection;
  • an obsessive desire to look in the mirror, in the reflection of the glass of doors, windows and other reflective surfaces;
  • at the same time - the inability to look at one's own reflection (up to the mirrors from the house) or one's own photographs;
  • repeated repeated application of makeup;
  • constant attempts to disguise an imaginary defect: for example, using camouflage cosmetics, wearing baggy clothes, hats covering the face, observing certain body positions (advantageous postures);
  • use of distraction techniques: an attempt to divert attention from a perceived defect, such as extravagant clothing or an excess of accessories, jewelry;
  • excessive "grooming": combing hair, plucking eyebrows, shaving, etc.;
  • compulsive (compulsive) touching the skin, especially to appreciate or feel an imaginary defect;
  • sharp unreasonable hostility towards people, especially of the opposite sex (or same sex in case of homosexuality);
  • search for confidence in communicating with loved ones (in the family circle);
  • debilitating diets or physical exercises in order to correct the appearance;
  • self-damaging behavior;
  • comparing appearance, figure or body parts with those of other people, obsessively viewing photos and videos of celebrities and models that a person suffering from body dysmorphophobia wants to be like;
  • compulsive search for information: reading books, newspaper articles and websites that describe ways to solve the problem of a perceived defect (for example, hair loss treatment, mammoplasty, epilation, etc.);
  • frequent use of plastic surgery services, cosmetology procedures or dermatology, which give an unsatisfactory (according to the patient) effect. In extreme cases, the results are rated as catastrophic;
  • inappropriate use of enemas.

Especially the problem of diagnosing dysmorphophobia is relevant in adolescents. Parents should be wary of any kind of body modification, an attempt to change the appearance, especially with an emphasis on one or more areas of the body that the individual perceives as deficient. Specialists also identified a long range of other symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder - the presence of at least 6-9 of them indicate this pathology.

Other characteristic and accompanying symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder

  • Constant negative thoughts about a defect in one's own appearance
  • Perfectionism towards yourself
  • Social phobia, loneliness, voluntary social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Symptoms of depression
  • An anxiety disorder that can even cause panic attacks
  • Chronically low self-esteem
  • Strong sense of shame
  • Delusional thoughts and beliefs related to how others perceive the appearance of the patient
  • Discomfort in the social environment, which is dictated by the feeling that others notice and mock their perceived defect in appearance
  • Avoidance of contact, for example, a person can only leave the house at certain times, more often at night
  • Dependent personality: dependence on others - partner, girlfriend or parents
  • Disability or inability to concentrate on work due to preoccupation with one's "handicap"
  • Academic problems
  • Inability to form or maintain romantic relationships
  • Alcohol abuse or drug addiction.

Dysmorphophobia: treatment

This disorder should not be perceived as an innocent whim, it significantly reduces the patient's quality of life. The dangers of dysmorphophobia are quite real: among such patients, a high risk of suicide has been statistically confirmed. Prevention in this case is unrealistic: there is no way to prevent this disease, but it is important to start treatment as soon as possible when the first symptoms of dysmorphophobia appear.

Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder is not a quick task, sometimes it is carried out, consists of many stages and involves tools such as psychotherapy. A type of individual counseling is provided that focuses on changing thinking (cognitive therapy) and behavior (behavioral therapy). The goal of psychotherapy is to correct the patient's false belief about his imaginary or minor defect, rid him of negative thoughts associated with self-esteem, and minimize compulsive behavior. Patients learn to restructure negative thought patterns, to be more realistic, as the therapist shows them that such thinking is not only irrational and wrong, but also harmful to them.

Less commonly used is meta-cognitive therapy, in which a person learns to accept their distorted thoughts, perceptions, and uncomfortable feelings without overreacting to them, and thus brings the disorder under control. In other words, with this technique, the patient does not allow his obsessive thoughts to control his own behavior - and he is already open to a new and healthier lifestyle.

In some cases, body dysmorphic disorder may be treated with antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Antidepressants are not used in this case as an independent therapy, but only as an addition to psychotherapeutic methods. Cognitive-behavioral therapy in combination with SSRIs is currently considered as first-line therapy. In the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder, on average, at least 18-22 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy are required, which takes six months.

How to help yourself?

A doctor is not always available for various reasons, but a person with body dysmorphic disorder can help himself (even if not completely cured). For this, various psychotechnics are recommended, for example, training in front of a mirror, where they learn to concentrate on other parts of the body, meditation, yoga techniques. Self-control is also a powerful tool in therapy, and it does not require you to get rid of your bad habits in one fell swoop, it is done gradually.

  • Let's say if you look in front of the mirror 12 times a day, try reducing that number to eight times.
  • Spend less time “looking”: If you tend to look at yourself or your “flaw” in the mirror for 20 minutes, shorten that time by 10 minutes.
  • Restrain yourself: if there is a desire to look in the mirror, put it off for later - by developing this habit, you will increase the chance that you will get rid of such obsessive desires in the future.
  • Complicate your rituals: you may lose interest in daily manipulations with tweezers or an epilator. Sometimes it helps if you completely get rid of the tools associated with the possession.

The environment, support of family and friends are very important for the success of the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder. Finally, a person, provided with understanding and support from others, can learn to better cope with their disorder and get rid of severe symptoms. At the same time, the environment can trigger this disorder. Factors of the social environment, life experience and cultural characteristics (fashion for thin, big-eyed, white-skinned, etc.) can contribute to the development of dysmorphophobia, especially if they are accompanied by low self-esteem and inadequate perception of one's body, which is especially common in adolescents.

Things to know (Q&A)

What is the meaning of Dysmorphophobia?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) previously known as 'dysmorphophobia' is defined as a preoccupation with an imagined defect in one's physical appearance . The preoccupation is associated with many time-consuming rituals such as mirror gazing or constant comparing.

What is it called when you see a different person in the mirror?

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness where people think they look different to how they really look. People are usually said to have BDD if they are extremely critical of their body, even though there may be nothing noticeably wrong with it.

Can BDD affect pictures?

These people tend to fixate on minute details -- every tiny blemish looms huge -- rather than viewing their face as a whole. Now researchers at UCLA have determined that the brains of people with BDD have abnormalities in processing visual input, particularly when examining their own fac

Does body dysmorphia affect how you see your face?

Clinically, patients with BDD most often perceive “defects” of their face and head areas . They tend to frequently check their appearance in mirrors and often scrutinize others' faces.

What does it mean when you see a different person in the mirror?

If you're suddenly feeling more of a distance from the image in the mirror and photos, it's likely that you've had a major life change recently and your filter through which you view yourself has changed . In your eyes it's like literally seeing a new person. This is a super coming phenomenon.

When you see yourself in the mirror is that what other people see?

No, it's the opposite of what other people see . A mirror reverses the image it reflects and the same is true for a camera photo or a video image. In fact, we ourselves never get to see how we truly appear to others.

What is mirror agnosia?

Mirror Agnosia is a condition where even though the person knows that he is looking at mirror as evidenced by ability to identify the frame and the glass of the mirror, he fails to recognize the objects that are reflected in the mirror as reflections.

Why do I see different faces in the mirror?

Seeing strange faces is normal when you stare in a mirror for long . It only takes a few minutes for your visual perception to shift, especially under low light. As you focus on a part of your face, other areas begin to fade out. This is what creates the illusion.

Can body dysmorphia affect pictures?

The BDD group displayed abnormally low brain activity in the visual cortex and temporal lobe for low detail images . This could again reflect global processing deficiencies and provide evidence for general abnormalities in visual processing beyond those related solely to appearance.

What is photo dysmorphia?

Often, our subject is ourselves. However, many times we see our photos and aren't happy with how we look . We get fixated on perceived flaws and wish we looked better. This scenario is so common it even has a name: selfie dysmorphi

Does body dysmorphia affect vision?

CONCLUSIONS. Individuals with BDD demonstrate visual processing and frontostriatal abnormalities when viewing their own face . Moreover, brain activity in these systems correlates with symptom severity.

Can you have body dysmorphia about your face?

You can become obsessed with any part of your body. The most common areas are your face, hair, skin, chest, and stomach . Symptoms of BDD include: Constantly checking yourself in the mirror.

How do people with body dysmorphia see faces?

Clinically, patients with BDD most often perceive “defects” of their face and head areas. They tend to frequently check their appearance in mirrors and often scrutinize others' faces .

Does body dysmorphia affect how you see yourself?

Deibler added that though comparing ourselves to others is actually very common, those with body dysmorphia have a self-perception that "remains negative," with the sufferer solely "focused on their perceived flaw." Instead of seeing all the wonderful things that make you unique, you will often only see the flaws.

Do people with body dysmorphia see things differently?

This study, along with our previous ones, shows that people with body dysmorphia have imbalances in the way they see details versus the big picture when viewing themselves, others and even inanimate objects .”

(中文(简体)) 恐惧症:镜子是骗人的