Sarah Gellar is the actress who starred in the TV series, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. She made news recently –not because she is married to Freddie Prinze, Jr. or because she is a vampire on the prowl again, but because she hates her body and suffers from a psychiatric condition, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). She believes she is not alone dealing with this affliction -that many women in America suffer from the same.
With BDD, people imagines they are ugly, flawed or deformed in some way. Typically, they focus on a specific part of their body like their nose, chin, ears, neck, skin, etc.
I have treated this condition for years. It usually begins during early adolescence but can occur in childhood. In order to cope, patients often resort to repetitious behavior like covering their ears, hiding their nose, checking the mirror, excessive grooming, etc. The disorder impairs a person’s functioning. The preoccupation over appearance usually results in withdrawing from social situations and can lead to depression.
Treatment is usually cognitive behavioral therapy that includes such techniques as exposure, response prevention, behavioral experiments and cognitive restructuring.The goal is to change a person’s thinking, engage the person socially and stop the repetitious behavior that goes along with feeling unattractive.
Here are three questions to ask if you or someone you know may have BDD: (For more information, go to this link on World Psychiatry where these questions were copied)
- Are you very worried about your appearance in any way? (OR: Are you unhappy with how you look?) If yes: what is your concern?
- Does this concern preoccupy you? That is, do you think about it a lot and wish you could worry about it less? How much time do you spend thinking about (fill in body areas of concern)?
- What effect has this preoccupation with your appearance had on your life? Has it:
- Significantly interfered with your social life, school work, job, other activities, or other aspects of your life?
- Caused you a lot of distress?
- Affected your family or friends?
Perhaps Sarah Gellar’s admission of her struggle will give more young women the courage to treat the disorder.