Many people wish to change aspects of their appearance, whether it be a desire to be thinner, taller, or have a differently shaped nose. However, when a focus on perceived flaws becomes obsessive or stressful, these may be signs of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
BDD statistics show that symptoms of the condition can include spending hours grooming, checking mirrors or avoiding social situations that can trigger anxious feelings about one’s appearance. While seemingly minor or non-existent to outsiders, these perceived flaws can be intensely distressing and debilitating to someone with BDD. BDD facts and statistics reveal the widespread prevalence of this condition, as well as the groups it most commonly affects.
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Prevalence of Body Dysmorphia
The prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder, also known as body dysmorphia, is estimated to affect approximately 2.0% of the general population, but the condition may be more common in some groups, such as teens, women or people with a pre-existing psychiatric condition. A survey of American adults found that BDD prevalence may vary by gender, where women reported slightly higher rates of BDD than men. Several factors can also increase the risk of BDD, including experiencing childhood bullying, having a perfectionistic personality, or living with another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.
BDD in Teens
The teenage years are marked by dramatic changes in physical appearance, which is likely why this developmental stage is when BDD symptoms tend to first emerge. BDD in teens appears to impact both boys and girls equally and often becomes more prevalent in the later years of adolescence.
Body dysmorphic disorder in adolescence can be particularly distressing, given that the teenage years are a vulnerable time of many changes. However, in many cases, BDD symptoms in adolescence are temporary and subside as the person gets older. It is vital to monitor and provide adequate psychological support to teens with BDD, as untreated cases may persist into adulthood.
Body Dysphoria in Men & Women
BDD is experienced in both men and women, although women tend to have the condition at slightly higher rates. This slight discrepancy may be due to additional societal pressure placed on the importance of female appearance. However, the gender gap may be closing as men also feel increased pressure to maintain an attractive appearance. Interestingly, the presentation of BDD may be different in men and women. For example, women may be more likely to become preoccupied with their skin, stomach, weight or body hair, while men tend to fixate on body build, thinning hair or genitals.
Men, particularly those who participate in an elite sport or appearance-driven competitions such as body-building, may be more susceptible to a subtype of BDD called muscle dysphoria. Muscle dysphoria relates to specific obsessions and concerns surrounding body size, shape or muscle mass. Muscle dysphoria can co-occur with social anxiety disorder or eating disorders.
BDD and Co-Occurring Disorders
While BDD can be diagnosed and treated on its own, it shares many features and symptoms with mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating disorders. People with BDD demonstrate obsessive, neurotic, anxious and controlling characteristics, which are common in other mental disorders. People with BDD often also experience social anxiety related to how others will perceive their appearance, and may develop anorexia or bulimia in trying to alter their appearance. In rare cases, altered visual perception in BDD may be a symptom of schizophrenia, though these are typically considered separate disorders.
Experiencing BDD in combination with a mood, obsessive or eating disorder could be additionally distressing and requires a different treatment strategy than those used when BDD is experienced in isolation.
Body Dysmorphia and Suicidal Ideation
The intense distress and obsession that underlies body dysmorphic disorder can lead to suicidal ideation, as people with BDD may feel helpless in their ability to control their appearance. People with BDD are at increased risk of suicide. Fortunately, early intervention and treatment help reduce this risk.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Cosmetic Surgery
The desire to alter or conceal one’s appearance is standard in cases of BDD. Perhaps unsurprisingly, BDD rates are reported to be much higher in those who have received plastic surgery or cosmetic dental work. Although people with BDD may feel initial relief following cosmetic surgery, appearance-related obsessions and anxieties often return if the underlying, psychological causes of BDD are left untreated.
Statistics on Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment
The obsessions and distress experienced by those with BDD can be debilitating. With the support of medical professionals and loved ones, the prognosis of BDD can include a return to a fulfilling and obsession-free life. BDD treatment often includes:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to break existing thought patterns
- Learning new habits and ways of thinking
- Monitoring and avoiding triggering experiences
While unlearning thought patterns and behaviors related to BDD can be challenging, these measures can significantly improve a person’s quality of life. This personal work is particularly important if a person lives with co-occurring BDD and addiction. If you or someone you care about is affected by BDD along with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village today for more information about comprehensive treatment options.
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