Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) distorts a person’s perception about a specific aspect of their appearance and causes them exquisite shame about the imagined defect. It is not a disorder of vanity, in which a person takes great pleasure in focusing upon their appearance. It is a disorder of agonizing shame and despair about appearance. Those who have BDD focus upon a particular feature or minor defect in their appearance and believe themselves to be severely disfigured and distracting to others. They feel convinced that their imagined ugliness is obvious to others despite the attempts of family and friends to reassure them otherwise. Shame and disgust about their misperceived ugliness can result in social avoidance and isolation, repeated plastic surgeries or cosmetic procedures and severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Body dysmorphic disorder can focus upon any aspect of appearance, including the shape of various body parts, hair or complexion. Patients with BDD may also take great risks in order to their appearance by seeking out medications, treatments or surgeries that are not under the supervision of licensed or well-qualified professionals.
Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder consists of cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. Cognitive therapy helps patients learn to recognize that their disorder is one of misperception and misplaced focus upon particular aspects of their appearance. They are taught how to gradually decrease efforts to examine and camouflage or hide their appearance. Exposure therapy helps patients gradually resume normal activities that they avoided due to fear of having their misperceived defect become noticeable. BDD sufferers are also taught how to more correctly view their body in its entirety and how to build meaningful relationships despite their BDD.
The Anxiety Treatment Center staff has experience in treating body dysmorphic disorder. We offer a compassionate step by step program to help those who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder learn to live their lives free of painful preoccupation with their appearance. We offer home visits, or special scheduling of sessions to allow for privacy, to those patients who may initially feel unable to come to our offices due to their BDD.
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