Most of us started 2010 by resolving to lose five pounds or quit smoking. Reality star Heidi Montag began it by undergoing TEN plastic surgeries. Why? Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a mental illness in which the affected person is excessively concerned and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features. Depending on the individual case, BDD may either be an anxiety disorder or part of an eating disorder or both. BDD ALWAYS includes an excessive fear of judgment by others, as is seen with social anxiety, social phobia and some OCD problems; or alternately may be a part of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and compulsive overeating. People with BDD usually find one VERY minimal or even NONEXISTENT physical defect to obsess and distress over. The most common areas of concern include skin imperfections, like scars, wrinkles, and acne, lack or excess of body and head hair, dissatisfaction with facial features, particularly the nose or ears, and unhappiness with body weight or muscle tone. Because they believe that their perceived defects make them grotesquely unattractive BDD sufferers often turn to plastic surgery in the hopes of fixing their supposed flaws. This is what many speculate occurred with Heidi Montag, who was quoted as saying she was, "beyond obsessed" with surgery. The condition is ALSO widely believed to be the reason that the late pop star, Michael Jackson, engaged in so much cosmetic work. According to his plastic surgeon, Jackson had plastic surgery, "approximately every two months." But BDD doesn't just affect celebrities-it may affect up to 1 to 2.5 percent of the U.S. population! Although not all sufferers can afford surgery, most develop ritualistic behaviors around their perceived flaw. This often includes picking at the skin, constantly staring in the mirror, and excessive grooming. In fact, most people with body dysmorphic disorder spend between three and eight HOURS obsessing over their perceived flaw daily! Whether they are afraid to speak up in groups, or don't even want to go out in public almost ALL sufferers experience social problems due to their obsessions and fears. This could be why Heidi Montag engages in such tumultuous relationships with ex-friends and her husband, Spencer Pratt. No one knows for sure what causes these symptoms of BDD, but the disorder has a higher occurrence amongst people with other mental health disorders like depression or anxiety. Many people with body dysmorphic disorder report taunting and criticism from parents or peers in childhood. It may be that the constant pressure of his father, Joe Jackson, helped drive young Michael to his condition. But no matter why it occurs, doctors DO agree that BDD is dangerous. In fact, as many as eighty-percent of patients with the condition attest to suicidal thoughts, and almost a QUARTER of them have attempted the act. This IS upsetting, but if a patient can be convinced to get help, treatment can be very effective. Treatment for BDD focuses on psychotherapy, a type of individual counseling designed to help change the thoughts and actions of a sufferer. Although no medication is specifically indicated for BDD, some doctors also prescribe antidepressants to patients. With dedication to their treatment programs, most patients with body dysmorphic disorder can go on to live happy, healthy lives. If you believe that someone you care about is dangerously obsessed with physical appearance, please make an appointment with a mental health professional!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012