Evidence-Based Comprehensive Psychological, Nutritional and Medical Care

Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is an extreme preoccupation or obsession with a perceived defect or flaw in one’s own physical appearance. This flaw can be a slight imperfection that is viewed out of proportion or a completely imagined flaw. Body parts and features commonly obsessed about by individuals suffering from body dysmorphia include nose size or shape, hair, skin imperfections, moles or freckles, breast size, muscle size, or weight and body size. Individuals who are more likely to develop body dysmorphia include those who have biological relatives with the disorder, who encountered childhood teasing, who have low self-esteem, and who are driven by a strong desire to achieve perfection. Because body dysmorphia can progress if left untreated and often leads to the development of eating disorders including anorexia or bulimia, individuals suffering from body dysmorphia should receive treatment for this disorder from a professional therapist or an eating disorder treatment center, such as McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers in St. Louis and Kansas City.

What is Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a chronic mental illness in which individuals obsess over some perceived flaw in their appearance. This obsession typically takes over the person’s life to the point where they are unwilling to be seen in public and may take drastic and dangerous actions in an attempt to fix or hide the flaw. The two main types of body dysmorphia include non-delusional dysmorphia, where a person exaggerates a minor flaw, or delusional body dysmorphia, where a person has hallucinations of an imagined defect. In either case, the imagined flaws are typically inexistent or mostly unnoticeable by others.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

Individuals who suffer from body dysmorphia exhibit a number of symptoms. For example, these individuals will intensely obsess over flaws or general appearance and body image for many hours a day. They may also seek out numerous cosmetic surgeries to attempt to fix these flaws, but they will never be satisfied. Other signs and symptoms that you may suffer from body dysmorphia include:

  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance and body image
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your physical appearance
  • Frequently examining yourself in the mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether
  • Believing that others view your physical appearance negatively
  • Excessive grooming, including hair plucking
  • Refusing to pose for or take part in pictures
  • Frequent skin picking or touching
  • Continually comparing your appearance to that of others
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Wearing excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws

Complications of Body Dysmorphia

A major complication of body dysmorphia occurs when body dysmorphic disorder leads to the development of an eating disorder. Individuals suffering from body dysmorphic disorder and an eating disorder will often perceive themselves as too large or overweight and will adopt anorexia or bulimic behaviors in an attempt to control weight. In this case, the complications of body dysmorphia are those health risks related to the eating disorder itself. For body dysmorphia that does not result in the development of an eating disorder, there still can be potentially dangerous and life threatening complications that can occur, though not as a direct result of body dysmorphia. Regardless, if you suffer from body dysmorphia, it is important to seek help from a health provider or McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers as the disorder can become worse over time if left untreated.

Some potential secondary complications that body dysmorphia may cause or otherwise be associated with include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Social phobias
  • Substance abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty attending work or school
  • Lack of close relationships
  • Excessive, unnecessary medical procedures, especially cosmetic surgery
Marks of Quality Care
  • Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
  • Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa
  • International Association Of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • RenewED, Eating Disorders Support
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Come in with an open mind and remember your goals, the person you want to be. It’s a second chance at life!

– A Former Resident