Obsession With ‘Defective’ Appearance Explained As DHA Marks Mental Health Condition

Relating the two cases, the doctor at Dubais Prime Medical Centre, who treated them, diagnosed them with what is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

What is BDD?

As explained by specialist psychiatrist Dr. Ajay Kumar, BDD is a mental health condition in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived flaws or flaws in your appearance, a flaw that seems minor or that others can’t see. But you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious that you avoid many social situations.

Dr. Ajay Kumar

He said BDD is most likely to start during adolescence or early adulthood. It affects both men and women.
The focus on BDD follows a recent move by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to flag the condition on social media, while providing practical self-help measures to tackle the problem.

What are the symptoms of BDD?

According to Arfa Banu Khan, clinical psychologist, Aster Clinic, Bur Dubai, who is currently treating a 13-year-old girl with BDD, the symptoms of BDD are very typical.

Arfa Banu Khan

In the case of this girl, she perceives that her weight and physical appearance are very different from those of her peers. She has reduced interactions, avoids going out or meeting other people, feels anxious and has symptoms of depression, she said.

In general, Khan says psychologists look for the following symptoms in BDD patients:

Spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about your body as a defect or flaw.

Repeatedly looking in the mirror or asking for constant feedback from others.

Change appearance frequently.

Being anxious/panicking about people’s judgment about the perceived flaw or flaws.

Avoid social situations that could alter work or school activities.

Going for or planning medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery to fix the perceived flaw.

How is BDD diagnosed?

According to Dr. Kumar, there is no specific medical test that can diagnose BDD. A mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can detect BDD by talking to you about your symptoms, thought and behavior patterns, lifestyle, and more. Diagnosing BDD involves using specially designed questionnaires or checklists to help determine whether you have the condition, he said.

BDD

Body dysmorphic disorder is real. But it can be managed with professional intervention and some practical self-help steps the patient can take.
Image Credit: Vijith Pullikal/Gulf News

To be diagnosed with BDD, the patient must be abnormally preoccupied with a small or nonexistent bodily defect; thoughts severe enough to interfere with normal life; and other mental health disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder should be ruled out.

How is BDD treated?

Khan said BDD is not curable, but it can be treated. Like many mental health conditions, treating BDD often involves a combination of approaches, including psychotherapy and medication, she said.

Psychotherapy focuses on talking about what you feel or experience and helps you develop beneficial thought processes and coping strategies. Two of the most common types used in the treatment of BDD are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy.

As for medications, he said antidepressants are commonly used. These medications can help with BDD symptoms, making it easier to manage your thoughts and behaviors. These medications can also make other forms of treatment like psychotherapy more effective, he added.

Treatment can last months. The 19-year-old patient Dr. Kumar treated had to be hospitalized and was discharged after eight months of medication and CBT. In the case of the 16-year-old, the medication has been taking place for the past six months.

DHA Council

DHA has shared the following tips to help people with BDD build a positive self-image and boost their confidence.

1. Write a list of the 10 most important things you like about yourself, regardless of how you look. Read the list often.

2. Take care of your health and follow a healthy lifestyle.

3. Look at yourself as a whole and don’t focus on certain parts just by looking in the mirror.

4. Surround yourself with positive people who understand the importance of loving yourself as you are.

5. Replace negative thoughts about your body with positive thoughts (remember the list).

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