Is there a part of your body that you just hate looking at or trying to hide from others? Every woman has gone through the stage of detesting a part of herself, especially in adolescence, and over time she has been able to accept herself. But what happens when that shame becomes an obsession or paranoia that prevents you from having a normal social life, or even leaving the house to go shopping or to the doctor? What if it leads to a suicide attempt? This is the life of people who suffer from Body Image Distortion Syndrome (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), a disease that has been worrying doctors around the world. Know a little more about this condition and what can be done to help those who go through it.
The Image Distortion syndrome was first described in 1886 by the Italian psychiatrist Enrique Morselli, who called the disorder body dysmorphia. Currently, it is classified within the group of somatomorphic disorders – when the patient has complaints and physical symptoms, but doctors are unable to classify any disease. It is a common mental disorder that affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the world population. Want to know more about it? Then read the article to the end.
In today’s text we will address:
- What is Image Distortion Syndrome?
- Causes and onset of the disorder
- The hated parts of the body
- How Image Distortion Syndrome affects routine
- The media and the ideal of beauty
- Plastic surgery is not the solution
What is Image Distortion Syndrome?
Body Image Distortion Syndrome is a disease that causes extreme fear or phobia of having an apparent physical defect and that everyone will notice. Those who suffer from this disease feel that they have a stigma and obsessively worry about how it affects their image. The result is a deterioration in social and occupational relationships. Some experts compare this syndrome with a kind of hypochondria of beauty.
Causes and onset of the disorder
These problems usually start in adolescence, where there are the greatest physical and bodily changes, and then decrease with age, although they can persist into adulthood.
According to research, the syndrome appears equally in men and women, however due to the pressure suffered by the perfect body, it ends up affecting the female sex more.
Low self-esteem , an anxious personality, or the victim of some form of childhood harassment or ridicule, can predispose a person to suffer from this type of problem.
The hated parts of the body
According to several studies on the subject, the areas of the body that are subject to greatest obsession are: skin defects (spots, acne or wrinkles on the face), teeth, chest, scars, facial asymmetry, lips, nose, abdomen, ears , chin and, in men, also the sexual organ.
How Distortion Syndrome affects routine
This excessive concern with physical details often causes people to behave compulsively. A person with this disorder can describe himself as monstrous or deformed by the simple fact of realizing that his eyelid is more droopy than the other and isolating himself from the outside world, thinking that everyone will laugh at him. But the truth is that for outsiders, this defect may not even be noticeable.
This excessive concern (or obsessive thinking) about physical details leads people affected to a series of compulsive behaviors, such as:
- They spend a great deal of time trying to camouflage the body parts they think are defective, for example, using their hair down to hide their faces, wearing dark sunglasses, wearing lots of clothes even in summer, wearing too much makeup.
- They avoid looking in the mirror or spend many hours in front of it to analyze their “defect”.
- They avoid going out on the street, going to social gatherings.
- They avoid taking pictures or seeing themselves when they appear in any of them.
- They always compare themselves with other people.
- They repeatedly ask their family and friends how they look.
- Most of them suffer from depression, which usually manifests with an intense feeling of anguish and inferiority.
- In severe cases, they develop severe disorders such as anxiety, bulimia and anorexia. They start having problems in relationships, sexuality and income at work falls.
The media and the ideal of beauty
The media present a standard model of beauty almost intangible for normal people. Skinny models, with perfect skins and teeth are presented on a daily basis, during commercial breaks, soap operas, films, among others.
People with a disorder are more vulnerable and when they see these “beauty standards” they develop a distorted or exaggerated perception of their imperceptible physical defects.
Plastic surgery is not the solution
The problem is that the physical changes or improvements that are made in the body thanks to the magic of surgery, reduce anxiety momentarily and in the short term, but shortly afterwards the obsession returns.
The relief that the surgery brings is almost immediate, but it does not remain because the problem is not physical but psychological. The likelihood that these people will be satisfied with the result is minimal and will likely return for a second intervention.
Then they will enter a vicious circle, impossible to break, since the perfection sought does not exist.
According to doctors there is no cure for the disorder, but it is possible to control it. The two most effective approaches are cognitive and behavioral therapies and treatments with drugs that increase serotonin. The two treatments can be used together or separately.
In cognitive therapy, patients gradually learn to reorganize their thoughts, expose their “defect” in front of others and see themselves more realistically, as whole individuals; rather than just seeing the alleged defect. This treatment proved to be effective in 77% of cases.
The effects of combined treatments generally include: less discomfort-anxiety, less negative thoughts, more realistic body perception, not spending as much time on physical appearance.
How to help these people
It is very important to help these people to make a realistic adjustment of their own image as well as a deep work on self-esteem. Part of the anxiety for the physical remains because the person does not value other areas of his life and sees defects in everything.
On the other hand, it will be essential to convince the person to leave the house and meet new people. And the most important: the rational acceptance of the defects, but also of the qualities themselves are the key for those who suffer from this problem to start to turn things around.