Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Social Anxiety

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Acute Care Our Critical Care Unit offers an acute level of care on a scenic ranch property in a safe and non-institutional environment. Patients receive excellent medical care and counseling services with a focus on nutritional rehabilitation and medical stabilization.From time to time, it is common to experience body dissatisfaction or a desire to change something about body size, shape, or appearance. As we live in a society and culture that typically overemphasizes appearance and body, there is often unspoken expectations and an unrealistic expectation that many of us find ourselves living under.

This can lead to an overall dissatisfaction with one’s body or desire to alter the outside appearance in one fashion or another.

The Body Distortions of BDD

A person who suffers with body dysmorphic disorder on the other hand, experiences such severe body distortions that they are disabled and hindered from living and flourishing. These body distortions are typically a drastic misrepresentation of who and what they really are.

For example, a person struggling with body dysmorphic disorder may perceive that they have a very crooked or misshaped nose, disfigured face, or other deformity that has made them repulsive and disgusting. This false perception is sincerely believed to be their actuality and reality, and this can prevent a person suffering form BDD from doing many normal and healthy activities.

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Relationship Issues from BDD

Romantic couple holding hands walking on beach at sunset. Man anAn individual who is burdened by their own body disortions will also have a difficult time relating to other people for fear of being rejected, shamed, or ridiculed. This can lead a sufferer with BDD to quit their job, career, or academic aspirations to hide themselves from the world and scrutiny of others.

This can also lead a person with BDD to minimize social contact with the outside world, which essentially hinders an ability to form and develop relationships with others.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a severe mental illness that can commonly occur with other types of mental disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety

The Connection with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders, such as phobias and social anxiety, can be triggered by body dysmorphic disorder, particularly because of the many fears and worries pertaining to body image that are associated with this mental illness. For example, a person with BDD may avoid social functions or any type of scenario in which they might be in the public eye. This can be due to an extreme fear of being analyzed or criticized for their appearance or due to their perceived “flaws”.

Social anxiety is characterized by an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. This can go hand in hand with body dysmorphic disorder, in which a person experiences extreme self-consciousness about their appearance and body, which ultimately hinders them from having meaningful interactions with others.

Therapies and Treatments for BDD

Woman lying on therapists couch looking happy as therapist is writingThe good news is that there are effective therapies and treatments for both social anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder. With appropriate and professional help, these mental disorders can be successfully treated and help a person find a meaningful and purposeful life.

Perhaps the first step in finding recovery is recognizing and admitting to the problem at hand. While body dysmorphic disorder is relatively common, it often goes undiagnosed, which creates a missed opportunity for treatment. If the quality of your life has been significantly impaired due to obsessions with your appearance and body distortions, and if you have been unable to thrive in social situations, it is crucial to recognize these symptoms and reach out for help.

Psychotherapy and Medication Management

Many forms of psychotherapy along with medication management can help a person successfully overcome social anxiety as well as body dysmorphic disorder. While there is much shame and stigma surrounding these mental health disorders, understand that your life is important and worthy of seeking professional help and guidance for recovery.

By utilizing the appropriate resources for treatment, you can overcome many of the obstacles you have faced with these disorders and find a way to truly thrive in your life. Begin by confiding in someone whom you trust and make a resolve to seek out the care you need and deserve for recovery.

Community discussion – share your thoughts here!

How has body dysmorphic disorder interfered with your ability to lead a normal and healthy social life? Have you experienced social anxiety as a result of body dysmorphic disorder? What resources were helpful to you in overcoming BDD and social anxiety?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 2015
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