September 24, 2012

Guest Post: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I'm happy to welcome Callie Kingston, author of the NA novel Undertow, back to the blog! You might recall I interviewed her for my "New Adult" Niche feature, and today she's here with a Psychtember guest post on body dysmorphic disorder.

BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER (aka Dysmorphophobia)

There’s a crisis which is literally eating away at our youth, and it’s time to fight back. Young men and women are suffering from a smorgasbord of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa (starving oneself), binge eating disorder (ingesting massive quantities of food, usually in secret), bulimia nervosa (purging by vomiting, using laxatives, endless hours of exercise).

Why would anyone punish her body this way?

Myriad psychological theories abound. One popular idea is that sufferers are perfectionists grasping for control, their bodies a battleground on which they battle their overpowering parents. Cognitive theories focus on the links these disorders share with obsessive-compulsive disorder, various phobias, and anxiety.

In truth, psychologists really don’t know, and there probably isn’t a single cause.

One thing most suffers share: a certain self-loathing brought about by a distorted perception of their actual body. Like looking into a mirror at the fun house, what they see is an inaccurate reflection. Twisted, magnified, ugly; these perceived defects become the focus of an incessant obsession. Taken to the extreme, this is diagnosed as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Not just limited to weight, shape, or size, the minor or imagined flaws can include any feature. Nose, lips, breasts, even toes – nothing is exempt. Sufferers are plagued by preoccupations about this supposed disfigurement and delusions that others are also focused on, and repelled by, their ugliness. An estimated 15% of plastic surgery patients have BDD.

Both girls and guys are affected, and the disorder can continue into adulthood. Treatments focus on helping the person develop accurate perceptions and thoughts, and treating the obsessive-compulsive and associated symptoms with medication if necessary.

Get more information about BDD and teens here.

Body Dysmorphic Disoder is a unique psychological condition which is undoubtedly fueled in part by media focus on physical perfection and beauty. Bodies, and lives, are being destroyed.

Let’s end this madness.

Callie's bio: "My home is in the Pacific Northwest, where I live with many furry creatures (including my husband). I hold a masters degree in psychology and have worked in schools for many years. When not writing, I like to explore the outdoors, especially the forests and beaches along the Oregon coast. I also enjoy a great cup of cappuccino, which happily is easily found in this part of the world." (from her website)

Thanks very much, Callie, for this informative post! It's interesting to hear about the connection body dysmorphic disorder may have with anxiety disorders like OCD.

Readers — which YA characters can you think of who struggle with body dysmorphic disorder (diagnosed or undiagnosed)?

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