Dysmorphophobia: pathological fixation on external flaws

Many people are not completely satisfied with their appearance and want to conceal or change one or the other problem area. People with dysmorphophobia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder, spend hours worrying about their perceived flaws. They often feel great shame. However, outsiders do not necessarily have to notice the supposed blemish.

Comparison on social media: Every day people post photos of themselves and their flawless bodies on social networks. Viewers often cannot avoid comparing themselves with the images. Most of the pictures are edited, unrealistic expectations of one’s own body are awakened. Dysmorphophobia is a body schema disorder in which the perception of one’s own body is disturbed. In the case of a body dysmorphic disorder, those affected constantly think of a blemish that they consider disturbing. The level of suffering is often very high. The consequences of the disease can be devastating, determine one’s entire life and even lead to social isolation. The mental disorder is quite common, affecting up to three in 100 people. Men and women are equally affected.

Signs: How to recognize dysmorphophobia

Most often, the disorder relates to a blemish on the face or head that is perceived as such, such as a dissatisfaction with the nose. However, the problem area can appear anywhere on the body. People with body dysmorphic disorder do not usually attract negative attention from others, only they perceive themselves as ugly.

These signs indicate a body dysmorphic disorder:

  • Excessive preoccupation with one’s own appearance, in particular with a certain flaw perceived as such, sometimes for several hours a day
  • Fear  of comments and negative judgment from others because of appearance
  • intensive care and preoccupation with the appearance, among other things by buying new clothes, make-up or hair styling
  • shame and fear
  • Documentation of the flaw for assessment using a tape measure or photos
  • Use of medical help to remove the blemish, for example from the field of orthodontics or cosmetic surgery
  • Avoiding certain social situations out of shame
  • frequent solicitation of compliments for confirmation or questions regarding the supposed flaw
  • constant social comparison

Body dysmorphic disorder must be differentiated from, among other things, eating disorders, in which the permanent preoccupation with appearance is also part of the clinical picture.

Causes of dysmorphophobia are diverse, they can be in the social environment, among other things. For example,  bullying  based on appearance can lead to the disease. Family and genetic factors are also possible. Added to this is the depiction of beauty in social media and advertising.

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