Dysmorphic disorder: when one's perception is distorted

Dysmorphic disorder usually begins during adolescence and affects both women, who tend to have greater concern and social pressure for physical appearance, as well as men, who increasingly care more about their appearance, especially muscle tone.

It is an altered perception of the physical defect and, as a consequence of this psychiatric disorder, the person fights feelings of hopelessness, deep anguish and serious problems of self-esteem.

The specialist Lauren Smolar explains that “body dysmorphic disorder is more than just feeling insecure about physical appearance. Someone who fights this disorder will believe that its defect really influences the way people see it, and may be overly concerned with fixing it. ”

What are the prevailing behaviors?

The main obsessions of these patients can focus on body weight, skin tone, scars, the size of the arms or hips, the shape and size of the nose, the shape of the face, hair, among others .

When the disorder occurs in children or adolescents, it can affect school performance, increase absenteeism (the child does not want to go to class because he is ashamed), cause social isolation, withdrawal, etc.

People with dysmorphic disorders can spend many hours of the day looking in the mirror, putting on excessive makeup, and looking for methods to hide the supposed physical defect. On the contrary, you may have an inability to look at your image in the mirror or a photograph, removing all reflective surfaces of the house.

It is common for those who suffer from this disorder to undergo dermatological, dental, surgical or other aesthetic treatments in order to correct the perceived defect. But the problem does not usually disappear after the interventions and the person feels worse and worse and returns, in many cases, to the treatment, falling into a vicious circle.

Sometimes the person seeks to compulsively check the perceived defect. To do this, seek opinions from family and friends. In other cases, keep the obsession secret. Also frequent are comparisons with the body or physique of other people, celebrities, influencers, etc.

Dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders

It is important to clarify that not all people with dysmorphic disorder also develop an eating disorder. But when the obsession and distortion go through the silhouette (for example, perceive the hips larger than normal, feel uncomfortable with the size of the belly, etc.) the person can begin to acquire behaviors of an eating disorder.

Some of these behaviors are to stop eating, do excessive and strenuous physical activity or use purgative methods (vomiting, laxatives, diuretics). All this confers greater gravity to the painting.

The coexistence of both disorders can be difficult to detect since the symptoms overlap, especially if the dysmorphia occurs along with anorexia. In this case, the psychiatric staff may demand the need for hospitalization.

To make a correct differential diagnosis and not to confuse a disorder with another, a detailed evaluation of a specialist and interdisciplinary intervention for its treatment is essential.