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Actress Megan Fox, It is considered a sexual symbolwhich has She said she was in between. of 5 million to 10 million People affected by body dysmorphia in the United States.

“I never see myself as other people see me. There is no point in my life where I don’t love my body, ever,” Fox said in a video. Interview with Sports Illustrated. “When I was little, I was like, ‘But I have to look this way.’ And why the knowledge of my body as a young person, I’m not sure.

A discrepancy between how a person perceives themselves and how others perceive them is a hallmark of body dysmorphia. Also known as body dysmorphic disorder, he says, it is “characterized by an excessive preoccupation with a perceived defect or slight physical defect in physical appearance.” American Psychological Association.

What people actually look like – or how attractive they are – usually has nothing to do with it.

“If this person has a very visible scar or other physical deformity, that’s not what we’re talking about,” says clinical psychologist and author Ramani Durvasula. California

“The individual is preoccupied, almost entirely, with the smallest physical behavior. A little blemish, a little bump in their nose, a little misaligned tooth, it could be the shape of something, but it’s not visible to other people,” she added. “It’s not good at all. … and it basically takes their lives.

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People with body dysmorphia spend a lot of time looking in the mirror to analyze their perceived flaws.

Around 2% of the world’s population has body dysmorphia, and the disorder affects males and females almost equally; American Anxiety and Depression Association. Symptoms often begin to appear During puberty, when the body begins to change significantly.

There are sub-forms of body dysmorphia: muscle dysmorphia, Primarily affecting men, it is characterized by preoccupation with thinking that one’s body is not lean or muscular – usually no matter how much muscle one has.

Here’s what it’s like to live with body dysmorphia and how people can get help.

What is body dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is commonly mistaken for an eating disorder, but due to some differences, that’s not the case, according to Durvasula and Anne Kearney-Cook, a Cincinnati-based psychologist who specializes in eating and body image disorders.

People with eating disorders tend to distort how they perceive their shape or weight, Durvasula said. “The person engages in (disordered eating) behaviors as well as what we call compensatory behaviors, which can be not eating for a certain period of time, intense exercise, using diuretics or laxatives, things like that.”

Body dysmorphia, however, generally focuses on perceived or actual behavior, experts say.

What causes body dysmorphia?

There is no single cause of body dysmorphia, but there are some contributing factors.

“Body dysmorphia is in the same family of disorders as obsessive compulsive disorder,” Durvasula said. “The only genetic evidence we see is that if a person has a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with OCD, they may be more likely to develop body dysmorphia.”

Researchers suggest that the brains of some people with body dysmorphia may have “abnormal problems processing visual input when examining their own faces.” 2010 study.

Body dysmorphia sometimes occurs at the same time as depression. If a person is preoccupied with certain things due to anxiety, the behavior of the body may be another matter to consider, Durvasula Added.

“Social media definitely hasn’t helped that. There’s so much social comparison to what other people look like. A lot of people put fake images out there,” Durvasula said.

Having family members who judge, validate, or love themselves or others based on their appearance can also play a role, she said.

Kearney-Cook added: “This makes the person hypersensitive to (perceive) imperfections in their appearance.” “A lot of times it’s like, deep down, whether it’s a difficult childhood or whatever, ‘I’m not good enough. I’m not attractive.’ They then project into their bodies.

A perfectionist mindset reinforces this attitude, she added.

Living with body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia can affect all areas of life—socially, professionally, and financially—especially if the condition worsens over time without treatment.

“Because they feel like they have this physical problem, they spend a lot of time and money getting cosmetic treatments or cosmetic dentistry, dermatology treatments, surgeries,” says Dorvasula.

People with body dysmorphia often have “checking” behaviors, like looking in the mirror and taking countless selfies and reviewing those, Durvasula added.

Compulsively looking in the mirror can ease people’s fears about how they look or help them see if a perceived flaw is still there or getting worse. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders. You think the behavior is unusual or ugly. Body dysmorphia was originally defined as “perceived ugliness syndrome,” Kearney-Cook said.

The person with the disorder may seek validation from others by asking if they see what is wrong, if the behavior is okay, or if there is something wrong with the behavior or if it is different.

Experts say people with body dysmorphia can isolate themselves from spending too much time feeling ashamed or worried about their appearance. They can also burn out their social support by constantly seeking validation, adds Durvasula.

Spending too much time analyzing their appearance can often lead to late work or missing school work, she said. Some people put themselves in financial trouble by buying beauty products or procedures – putting themselves or their family in debt, and sometimes doing it in secret for fear of what might happen if people find out.

Kearney-Cook had a patient who was so troubled by a noticeable defect in her nose that she would always look in the mirror, even while driving, the psychologist said. While doing this, crashing the car into a tree is a wake-up call for the patient, she said.

Finding treatment for body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia can’t be treated, and it’s a “difficult clinical condition” to manage because it’s “a very resistant pattern to change,” Durvasula said. But there are some effective treatments.

One that is preferred by many practitioners is cognitive behavioral therapy. A person’s distortion or thinking is believed to drive this behavior, so therapists work on the person’s distortion and then go from there, Durvasula said. Because body dysmorphia is similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, treatments for OCD such as “exposure and response prevention” may also be helpful in managing body dysmorphia. In a safe environment, This treatment exposes It requires people to choose not to respond to situations and compulsive behaviors that bring about an obsession or trigger.

With this type of treatment, a person with body dysmorphia doesn’t look in the mirror or take selfies as much, says Dorvasula. “They have to really put up with the inconvenience of not engaging in screening behavior. But this should be complemented with cognitive behavioral work.

A history of trauma also requires trauma-informed treatment, which involves the mental health professional acknowledging how the person’s trauma is the root cause of body dysmorphia.

“Some treatments can be very educational — with the images we see in the world and how unrealistic they are,” Durvasula said.

Researchers have been looking at brain chemicals like serotonin as a cause of body dysmorphia, Kearney-Cook said — so antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, may be useful for treatment.

If you can’t find a mental health professional who specializes in body dysmorphia, try working with someone who has experience with OCD or eating disorders, says Durvasula.

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