What you need to know about Body Image Disorder

Body image disorder is a type of a mental illness wherein a person is unable to stop thinking about their perceived flaws or defects in their appearance. Sometimes the perceived imperfections are minor and other people may not notice it, but the person feels embarrassed or anxious about it.

What is Body image disorder?

Body image disorder makes a person seek help from numerous cosmetic products to fix the perceived defects. A person intensely focuses on his or her body image or posture and seeks reassurance from friends and colleagues about looks and appearances.

When a person has body image disorder, the perceived thoughts about flaws or imperfections by that person causes significant distress and affects the day to day routine adversely. Signs and symptoms of the body image disorder depend on the perceived thoughts of the person.

Sometimes, it also causes significant distress in work and school. A person suffering from this condition consumes more time in fixing parts of the body, it gets difficult for him to control the over-thinking process.

Body image disorder causes excessive self-consciousness
A person with Body Image Disorder worries excessively about their appearance


  • The person who suffers from Body image disorder keeps asking for reassurance even though there is no visible defect, looking into the mirror every now and then.
  • Conscious towards the defected part and frequently touching that part and feeling considerate about it.
  • Inability to concentrate at work or in school and struggles to perform tasks is one of the common symptoms.
  • It’s hard to resist the feeling of self-consciousness while going out to any public event, party or meeting
  • Avoiding relationship and family issues.
  • Looking and consulting a dermatologist for making improvements in any body part.


There are two types of body image disorder; muscle dysmorphia and BDD by proxy (Body dysmorphic disorder). The treatment for both disorders is similar but to meet the person’s needs the therapist uses several strategies for focusing on the core problem.

  • Muscle dysmorphia: In this condition, a person feels like the body is not sufficient enough to carry out vigorous muscular activities. One will either overvalue his appearance or undervalue it. These negative thoughts about the personality of a person will affect the mental condition and distract him from focusing on essential things.
  • BDD by proxy: In this condition, one always compares himself with somebody else's appearance. A person will constantly think about his perceived defects and attempt to hide, improve, or check the flaws. Many people in this state avoid going to public places and parties and may damage their relationship that leads to social anxiety.


One can either go for medication or therapy for his body image disorder. However, medicines might not give significant results, as therapies are personalized, one can expect more. The most common treatment for BDD is Cognitive-behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, client-centered therapy or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also called anti-depressant.

Under CBT, the therapist will take the help of a unique process called ERP (Exposure and response prevention). This will help in finding the core problems that generally make a person think anxious about his body image. Later, the therapist helps the person to identify and deal with these negative feelings without being fearful.

Many therapists also include some self-help techniques in the session to help the person cope with the relapse if, at any time, it happens in the future. The client-centered therapy for Body Image disorder focuses mainly on personalized treatments and techniques to provide effective results.

Therapy Outcomes

The exact cause of body image disorder is unknown as it can be diagnosed from a combination of problems, past events, family history, abnormalities in the brain or negative evaluations about the body or self-image. It can also happen because of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Here are some benefits that one can get through counselling sessions for body image disorder:

  • Improved positive attitude: Steering conversations with therapists or professionals helps to cut off the negative attitude that gets deep-rooted because of the disorder. Negative talks make the person think more about their insecurities and the person hesitates to open up or talk freely about their feelings. But with regular therapy sessions the environment stays in one’s favor and he develops a positive attitude towards the body and imperfections.
  • Self-love: The constant reassurance from different people tends to lower the self-esteem of any individual but with CBT and exposure therapy, one starts to learn about himself even more. Even though the defects are not visible enough, there is always a feeling of self-consciousness which grows every day.
  • Growth in personal and professional life: As in BDD, the person engages in time-consuming behaviors like looking in the mirror or hiding the defect; with regular counselling sessions, a person gets over these problems. Automatically, life will get more inclined towards a professional path leading the growth.
  • Relief from stressors: “How does a person think about me?”, “Why am I this way?”, or “Why am I different from others?” are some of the constant questions a person with BDD has in their mind and these questions create a lot of stress too. Therapists consider these to be the stressors that are important to dig out to get over the disorder.
  • Stress management techniques: Self-help tips are also beneficial for coping with body dysmorphic disorder, including stress management techniques. The therapist informs certain personal care routines like creating a plan of action, and writing down the parts of the body you feel grateful about. Controlling thoughts is important in such a disorder; hence taking fewer photos is an excellent idea to deal with poor body image holistically.

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