Social Media Can Trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Social Media Can Trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder

 BDD occurs in one out of 50 people in the US/ Photo By wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock


With the rise of social media in this current generation, which makes it harder to evade the cameras, it appears that people have become more self-conscious about their appearance. Not wanting to seem less than perfect in the pictures they post, they could spend hours fixing themselves in front of the mirror as well as choosing from thousands of filters.

This unspoken demand to be flawless in the way a person looks could cause them to fixate about what is wrong with their appearance and how they can either conceal it or “correct” it.

Being too obsessed about a certain imperfect aspect in their external image is the manifestation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Based on the study conducted by the International OCD Foundation, Body Dysmorphic Disorder occurs in one out of 50 people in the U.S. This means that it is diagnosed in 1.7% to 2.4% of Americans.

Another research shows that those who are affected by this disorder are at a higher risk of suicide. It is estimated that 25% of those who suffer from BDD have tried to take their own lives. BDD is also found to be more prevalent than other common mental disorders such as anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia.


a new type of BDD has emerged which he calls Snapchat Dysmorphia/ Photo By 13_Phunkod via Shutterstock



Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is described by The Mighty as a type of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). People who suffer from BDD have an obsessive preoccupation with an either imagined or minor flaw in their appearance which they will painstakingly attempt to deal with, mend or conceal.

These thoughts about their defects in their appearance are persistent and intrusive. These recurring thoughts can make them feel shame, distress and lead them to believe that they are ugly.  This discomfort in their perceived ugliness may lead them to try undergoing plastic surgery.

Although it is found to be more common in women, men are prone to another subtype of BDD known as Muscle Dysmorphia or the feeling that they do not have enough muscles. This causes many males to spend long durations in gyms and constantly compare themselves to other body builders.


Why Social Media Triggers It

A research reveals that teenage girls who modify their pictures were more concerned about their body’s appearance and that they use their social media to gain acceptance. There is a study that reports that there have been patients who visited plastic surgeons to be able to have a better presentation of themselves in their selfies.

Dr. Neelam Vashi, the Director of the Ethnic Skin Center at Boston University School of Medicine, proclaims that a new type of BDD has emerged which he calls Snapchat Dysmorphia. People who have Snapchat Dysmorphia have the desire to look exactly like their filtered versions on snapchats so they look for surgeons who can help them accomplish that.

He adds that filtered selfies can make people disconnect from reality, making people expect that everyone has to look dolled up at all times.

“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the illusion that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time,” Dr. Vashi explains.



According to Verywell Mind, people who have BDD will display the following symptoms:

1. Being obsessed with their appearance

The individual tends to dwell on the perceived flaw in their appearance which can barely be seen by others or it may actually be an imagined one. They may spend several hours in a day just thinking about the imperfections of their body.


2. The person has a compulsion to repair their flaw in appearance

They tend to engage in repetitive behaviors to be able to hide, mend and address the issue emphasized by the obsessive thought. These may include picking at their skin, constantly checking the mirror, starting their application of makeup all over again, and having the urge to keep changing outfits.


3. Their obsessions and compulsions are starting to hinder them from living their daily life

The obsessive thoughts about their physical appearance and the compulsion to try to eliminate the perceived problem should have a major effect on the major facets of their life such as their social life, school or their job.


Patients  of BDD are strongly advised to undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / Photo By wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock


Treatment Methods

An individual who is affected by BDD may decide to be subject to therapy or take some prescribed medication.



Patients are strongly advised to undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This can help them alter wrong thought patterns and beliefs that accompany their condition. Exposure techniques may also be used under this therapy to help lessen their tendency to engage in repetitive actions and thoughts that focus on their bodily imperfections.



Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of BDD.

They should be able to seek the assistance of a psychiatrist or a mental health practitioner instead of other healthcare professionals such as a dermatologist or a reconstructive surgeon. They must be able to identify that the problem is not with their appearance but rather how they view their perceived defect and how they deal with it.



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