Addiction is a condition that entails many changes for its victims; for one, it will change one’s lifestyle and how he or she views the world. It can lead to distorted perceptions of reality and of one’s own self, leading to psychological complications such as body dysmorphia, schizophrenia, and suicidal tendencies. Body dysmorphia or body dysmorphic disorder is a symptom of addiction that is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with an imagined or perceived physical defect or flaw in one’s appearance. This psychiatric disorder is not to be confused with “bad body image,” which is a symptom of anorexia and bulimia, but can be as harmful. Body dysmorphia can affect an individual emotionally and psychologically, and can jeopardize one’s chances at having a normal and healthy social life.
At the onset of puberty, many teenagers can suffer from a mild form of body dysmorphia due to the changes that occur within their bodies. However, this apprehension experienced by teens does not compare to the aggravation suffered by addicts with body dysmorphia. Severe cases of body dysmorphia can lead to severe distress and anxiety that can subsequently cause impairment in social and professional functioning. The preoccupation or dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance can render an individual useless, except for discussing one’s physical flaws.
Body dysmorphia can manifest differently in different people, but the most common symptoms are:
• Excessive grooming
• Excessive dieting and exercise
• A compulsion to look at one’s self in the mirror or avoid mirrors completely
• A compulsion to get feedback regarding one’s appearance
• An obsession with cosmetic surgery
Many mistakenly attribute the preoccupation of body dysmorphia sufferers with their bodies as vanity or an attempt to seek attention. They fail to realize that this is a symptom of a serious mental disorder that paralyzes individuals physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Traditional psychotherapy can help in the alleviation of the symptoms of body dysmorphia, but research has shown that cognitive behavior therapy, together with proper medication, can go a long way in treatment.