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Body Dysmorphia and its Affects on Mental Health

In the United States alone, about 10 million individuals are diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder: “obsessive thinking and preoccupation with a minor or imagined” (Center for Change) flaw over their physical features. For example, one may begin to solely devote their time in attempting to fix their appearance. This is one of many common symptoms that these individuals face. In addition, according to the John Hopkins Medicine, a patient with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) may portray a behavior where they are constantly exercising and checking themselves in the mirror—or avoiding mirrors overall. This is because they become more self-conscious about their looks.

But how does body dysmorphia actually affect their mind?

Based on an experiment they have conducted, “researchers [have] found that individuals with BDD exhibited greater activity in the areas of the brain that processes detailed information,” (UCLA Health). However, slightly contrasting to these results, another experiment indicated that “individuals with BDD were more likely [to] misidentify neutral faces as angry or disgusted,” (International OCD Foundation). So what do these results mean: Individuals diagnosed with BDD are more aware of their surroundings yet because of the fear that others are judging them, they tend to interpret the reality differently.

BDD can worsen if left untreated, but certain medications and therapy—specifically cognitive behavioral therapy—is known to help a patient improve their mental health. This is because it “challenge[s] automatic negative thoughts about [one’s] body image and learn[s] more flexible way of thinking,” (Mayo Clinic). In other words, it helps them change their perspective over their appearance. With medications, psychiatrists would most likely recommend SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors because it “may help control negative thoughts and repetitive behaviors,” (Mayo Clinic).

Body dysmorphia is especially common among adolescents primarily due to reasons such as bullying. As social media play a large part among adolescents, cyber bullying has risen to be the most common type of bullying among teenagers. In response, victims gradually become discouraged and develop a negative image and become more self conscious of their features or behaviors. This is because “bullying create[s] or foster[s] the feelings of inadequacy, [and] shame,” (John Hopkins Medicine). Another reason could be because of our surroundings, or the environment we live in. For example, we may gradually develop similar behavior as to those around us who are diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder.

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