Body Image Issues
Are you dissatisfied with your appearance?
When you look in the mirror, do you only see “flaws” that other people don’t seem to see? Do you find yourself ruminating negatively on a particular facial feature or body part, engaging in rituals such as checking the mirror frequently to mitigate your anxiety?
Has this fixation negatively impacted your functioning, interfering with work and/or relationships?
Body image issues have been a prominent theme in my work with young adults. Feeling unattractive or unsightly can diminish confidence and result in missed social and occupational opportunities. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a variant of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, one that is often misunderstood as simple vanity and which can cause the sufferer great mental distress. Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population — about 1 in 50 people. (https://bdd.iocdf.org/professionals/prevalence/).
Unfortunately, many people seek help from dermatologists and plastic surgeons in an attempt to fix their “defects,” rather than seeking therapy. The media can feed our belief that this is the best remedy, with its depictions of reality TV stars whose appearance seems to morph almost daily into larger breasts, smaller noses, and fuller lips.
You may recognize that your preoccupation with your appearance is excessive, but lack the tools necessary to counteract the obsessions and compulsions. Seeking therapy is a courageous step toward achieving a fuller life in which you begin to see yourself as more than just your physical attributes. We'll work together in a safe, nonjudgmental environment to understand the root causes of your appearance fixation, which are usually multifactorial - biology, family, and social forces may all play a role. At the same time, we'll develop a plan to address your distressing obsessions and rituals, generally involving cognitive and behavioral exercises that you'll practice at home and in session.
These focus on learning to reframe your negative thoughts and fears about your appearance in order to embrace a more realistic self-perception, as well as reducing rituals and compulsions that you may rely on to feel better temporarily about the way you look, but which offer only fleeting reassurance. Learning to see oneself more positively and holistically can be a challenge for people with BDD, who have become accustomed to their own merciless self-scrutiny, but it can be accomplished in the context of a caring, supportive and structured therapeutic relationship.