Warning signs of body dysmorphic disorder

Suzanne Monaghan
March 10, 2019 - 4:00 am

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MALVERN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which a person is preoccupied on a real or perceived flaw in appearance. BDD, which is considered an obsessive compulsive disorder, affects both women and men and usually begins during the teen years. 

"The obsession would be the thought or experience of physical imperfection and then the compulsion is trying to either perfect it or get reassurance about it," said Dr. Brigette Erwin, the founder and director of the Anxiety & OCD Center in Malvern. 

So sufferers will often ask questions about their appearance aimed at getting that reassurance, but that only exacerbates the problem.

"They tend to be repetitive and the answers do not create lasting reassurance, so they're cyclical and that's what feels frustrating to parents and family members. So that's kind of your first clue that something is up here," Erwin said. 

READ: Philly School Opens 'Calming Room' To Better Support Students' Mental Health 

People with BDD are often depressed, will frequently look in the mirror, touch or fix the perceived imperfection and some even consult with plastic surgeons to change their appearance. 

"The excessive nature of it creates excessive distress and/or impairment, and what impairment means it's interfering in some way. Either it's costing a lot of money or you're spending a lot of time or you're distorting your body," Erwin said. 

But Erwin says the disorder is treatable.

"It's important to seek out treatment that is effective or evidence based," Erwin said.