Body dysmorphia, which is also called body dysmorphic disorder, is an anxiety-related psychiatric condition that is characterized by an intrusive and persistent pre-occupation with an imagined or unnoticeable flaw in appearance. It is estimated that body dysmorphic disorder affects 1 in every 50 people and can occur at any age.
People with body dysmorphia tend to obsess over their appearance, often resorting to repetitive grooming behavior (e.g. checking oneself in the mirror more often than usual) and the constant need for reassurance. This condition could significantly affect a person’s functioning and could bring about intense stress and anxiety if not addressed.
I Feel So Ugly: Body Dysmorphia Disorder | Body Image | Only Human
Causes of body dysmorphic disorder
Researchers have yet to discover the exact cause leading to the development of body dysmorphia. However, a wide array of empirical studies suggest that the development of such condition could be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
Studies primarily show that individuals who have relatives with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression are more likely to develop body dysmorphia. Also, individuals suffering from other mental disorders are also prone to this condition. Twin studies show that genetics could account for 42-44% of the variation in body dysmorphia symptoms.
Brain and neural differences could also cause body dysmorphia. Recent findings show that the development of body dysmorphic disorder is significantly related to the release of neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin. A lack of ample serotonin causes depressive symptoms, which has led to newer modes of treating body dysmorphia to primarily focus on serotonin regulation.
Environmental factors are also considered as significant contributors in the development of body dysmorphia. Studies show that cultural factors, traumatic experiences, and other significant life events could affect a person’s perception of his or her physical features. People who have been teased, bullied, and/or abused about their bodies during their younger years are more likely to develop body dysmorphic disorder.