Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which rarely looks at the brain, Amen Clinics uses brain imaging technology to identify brain patterns associated with body dysmorphic disorder.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a brain illness that negatively affects a person’s perception of their appearance which becomes disruptive to their daily life and happiness. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you look past your smooth skin and beautiful eyes and zero in on your crooked teeth, wrinkles, or flabby stomach? Most of us have something we don’t like about our appearance, but it usually doesn’t occupy our thoughts or get in the way of daily life. When you (or your child) have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), however, you are preoccupied with these flaws or defects—whether real or perceived—for hours each day and it can interfere with everyday living.

Who has Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

An estimated 1 in 50 people in the U.S. have body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition in which a person obsesses about physical imperfections that others view as minor or imperceptible. Body dysmorphic disorder tends to develop as an adolescent or teen, so take notice if your child is exhibiting signs of the condition. Males and females are almost equally likely to have the condition, which affects 2.5% of men and 2.2% of women.

What are the Core Symptoms?

The most common areas people obsess over include the following. (Please also see below for more symptoms of BDD.)

  • Face (most commonly the nose)
  • Body weight
  • Muscle mass and tone
  • Hair (baldness, thinning, body hair)
  • Skin (wrinkles, acne, complexion, visible veins)
  • Breasts
  • Genitalia

What Causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Although the cause of borderline personality disorder is unknown, we do know that it seems to emerge in the adolescent and early adulthood years and may have a combination of genetic and environmental causes. Research suggest that those with BDD have abnormalities in the brain that control emotions and impulses. People with a family history of BDD are much more likely to also suffer from the condition.

Untreated body dysmorphic disorder can have alarming consequences and is associated with higher incidences of:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Not reaching potential at work
  • Suicidal ideation

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to evaluation to make an accurate diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder and any other co-occurring mental health conditions. We use brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive assessment to diagnose and treat our patients. We also assess other factors—biological, psychological, social, and spiritual—that can contribute to symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder. Based on all of this information, we are able to personalize treatment using the least toxic, most effective solutions a better outcome.
 
 
 
 

BDD Brains Work Differently

Like all mental health problems, body dysmorphic disorder is a brain disorder that is linked to abnormal activity in the brain. People with body dysmorphic disorder often struggle with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. Brain SPECT studies have shown abnormal blood flow in specific regions of the brain with OCD, anxiety, and depression. Some of these brain changes may also be seen in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

Brain SPECT studies have shown abnormal blood flow in specific regions of the brain with OCD, anxiety, and depression. Some of these brain changes may also be seen in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

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Abnormal Blood Flow Regions of the Brain

Like all mental health problems, body dysmorphic disorder is a brain disorder that is linked to abnormal activity in the brain. People with body dysmorphic disorder often struggle with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. Brain SPECT studies have shown abnormal blood flow in specific regions of the brain with OCD, anxiety, and depression. Some of these brain changes may also be seen in people with body dysmorphic disorder. Brain SPECT studies have shown abnormal blood flow in specific regions of the brain with OCD, anxiety, and depression. Some of these brain changes may also be seen in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

Anterior Cingulate Gyrus (ACG)

This area is involved in allowing people to shift attention from subject to subject. When the ACG is overactive, people tend to get “stuck” on the same thought or behavior, as is seen in OCD.

Basal Ganglia

This region helps set the body’s anxiety level and is involved in forming habits. When there is too much activity in the basal ganglia, it is associated with increased anxiety and heightened fear.

Limbic System

The limbic system sets the emotional tone of the mind. When there is too much activity in this area, it is associated with negative thinking and depression.

 

“When Your Brain Works Right, You Work Right.”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

 

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you tend to struggle with obsessive thoughts about your imperfections. These intrusive and distressing ideas are so all-consuming, you may find it hard to focus on anything but your perceived flaws. These distressing thoughts tend to cause anxiety and can lead to ritualistic behaviors.

It can also lead you to seek out plastic surgery or other cosmetic procedures to fix what you see as wrong with your physical appearance. These procedures may offer temporary relief from your distressing thoughts, but the nagging concern about your looks often returns and you seek out additional ways to fix what you think is wrong with you.

Signs and symptoms that you (or your child) may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Obsessing about a perceived flaw that others see as minor or nonexistent
  • Believing that others are judging your appearance negatively
  • Feeling that your physical defect makes you ugly
  • Repeatedly seeking reassurance that your not flawed
  • Repeatedly checking your appearance in the mirror
  • Trying to camouflage your defect with makeup, hats, clothing, or body positioning
  • Routinely comparing your looks to others
  • Excessive grooming
  • Over-exercising
  • Repeatedly changing clothes
  • Skin picking
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