What is Body Image Disorder?

Body image disorder is a severe mental health illness wherein a person is not able to stop thinking about their perceived flaws or defects in their appearance. Sometimes the imperfections are minor, and other people can't see it, but you will feel embarrassed or anxious.

Body image disorder will make you seek help from numerous cosmetic products to fix the defects. You will intensely focus on your body image or posture and will seek reassurance from your friends and colleagues about your looks.

When you have body image disorder, the perceived thoughts about flaws or imperfections by you causes significant distress and affects the day to day routine adversely. Signs and symptoms of body image disorder depend on the perceived thoughts of the person, but sometimes it caused significant distress in work and school. As your most of the time gets consumed in fixing parts of the body, it gets difficult for you to control the overthinking process.

Symptoms:

  • Always asking for reassurance even though there is no visible defect
  • Frequently touching and feeling a defect part
  • Inability to concentrate at work or in school
  • 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
  • Looking into the mirror and trying to hide body parts which get time-consuming

Mostly males feel or focus on a body part being small or not muscular enough compared to others.

Types:

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

  • Muscle dysmorphia: In this condition, you will feel like your body is not sufficient enough to carry out vigorous muscular activities. You will either overvalue your appearance or undervalue it. These negative thoughts about your personality will affect your mental condition and distract you from focusing on essential things.
  • BDD by proxy: In this condition, you will always compare yourself with somebody else's appearance. You will constantly think about your 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, leading to social anxiety.

Treatment:

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

In CBT, the therapist will take the help of a unique process called ERP (Exposure and response prevention). This will help you find the core problems that generally make you think this way about your body image and cause anxiousness. Later, the therapist will help you deal with these feelings without getting afraid.

Many therapists also include some self-help techniques in the session to help you 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.

Counseling outcomes for Body Image Disorder:

The cause of body image disorder is unknown, because it can happen 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 you will get through counseling 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 they hesitate to open up or talk freely about their feelings. But with regular therapy sessions, the environment will be in your favor, and you will develop a positive attitude towards your 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, you will know yourself 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 counseling sessions, you will get over these problems. Automatically, your 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 the constant questions a person with BDD has in their mind, and they 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 will tell you 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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