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May 23, 2023

Millions struggle with body dysmorphia, a mental health condition concerning obsession with perceived flaws

Actress Megan Fox recently discussed her experiences with body dysmorphic disorder, highlighting the private battle many people face. What are the causes, treatments and symptoms?

Mental Health Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Taylor Smith/Unsplash

Several celebrities have been outspoken about their struggles with the mental health condition known as body dysmorphic disorder, including actress Megan Fox in a recent interview.

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, ails millions of Americans each year, including several outspoken celebrities — but many people don't exactly know what it entails.

BDD is a mental health condition in which a person becomes obsessed with one or more perceived personal physical flaws, which usually appear minor or go undetected to others. The disorder can cause people to avoid social situations and even impact one's ability to function in daily life, according to Mayo Clinic.

Experts estimate that between 1.7% to 2.9% of the general population have BDD, which means more than 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from the condition. BDD is about as common as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is more common than disorders like anorexia and schizophrenia. BDD may be even more commonplace than reported, because people with the condition may be reluctant to disclose their symptoms out of feelings of embarrassment or shame, according to the International OCD Foundation

Multiple celebrities have discussed their experiences with BDD publicly, including actress Megan Fox, who detailed her difficulties with body image during a recent interview for the Sports Illustrated 2023 Swimsuit issue.

“I have body dysmorphia," Fox said. "I don’t ever see myself the way other people see me. There’s never a point in my life where I loved my body.”

The 37-year-old actress has previously opened up about her "deep insecurities" and times in her career when she did not want to be seen in public at all. 

Fox isn't the only Hollywood fixture who has come forward about experiencing body dysmorphia. In 2021, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" actress Lana Condor told People that she only recently had the realization that she was facing body dysmorphia. Miley Cyrus told Marie Claire in 2015 that she believes her stint playing Hannah Montana on Disney Channel may have caused her to struggle with body dysmorphia.

Other celebrities, including "The Good Place" star Jameela Jamil, "Riverdale" actress Lili Reinhart, "The Batman" actor Robert Pattinson and "Jane the Virgin" star Justin Baldoni, have disclosed their experiences with BDD as well.

Here is some vital information about BDD:

What are the causes of BDD?

While experts do not yet know the exact cause of BDD, it is believed to stem from a combination of environmental, psychological and biological factors, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine

Men and women are equally affected, and factors that contribute to BDD may include family history of BDD or a similar mental disorder, abnormal brain chemical levels, personality type and life experiences.

Experiencing bullying may also contribute to feelings of inadequacy or shame.

What are the symptoms of BDD?

People with BDD may become obsessed with any part of the body, such as the face, hair, skin, chest or stomach, according to Johns Hopkins.

Regardless of feedback they may hear to the contrary, people struggling with body dysmorphia are convinced of their own negative self-perceptions. 

"BDD may be challenging to recognize in oneself, because insight into the inaccuracy of one’s misperception of their body is often poor," Marla Deibler, a licensed psychologist and executive director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, told USA TODAY.

Symptoms can include constantly checking oneself in the mirror, avoiding mirrors, attempting to cover parts of the body, constantly exercising or grooming, avoiding social activities and having unnecessary plastic surgeries. Those with BDD also may feel anxious and depressed, or contemplate suicide, according to Mayo Clinic.

What are the treatments for BDD?

BDD is diagnosed by mental health professionals based on symptoms and the level in which they affect a patient's life. The condition is treatable, although it cannot be cured, according to The Washington Post.

Treatment may include talk therapy or medicines, or a combination of the two. The best way to prevent BDD from becoming a serious issue is to catch it early in life, as it can worsen with age, according to Johns Hopkins.

Those experiencing symptoms of BDD are urged to talk with a healthcare provider or mental health professional. 

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