Most people have had the experience of looking at a photo of themselves taken by someone else and being surprised at how they looked – but few people experience a strong difference between perception and reality when they look in the mirror. People who see their bodies significantly differently than they actually appear may suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, according to Dra. Yily De Los Santos.
Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, can be treated with therapy, and Dra. Yily De Los Santos recommends talking to your loved ones if you notice that they’re showing signs of BDD. It’s key to treat BDD before it overtakes a person’s life.
Dra. Yily De Los Santos says that one of the key warning signs of BDD is sudden avoidance of social situations. Someone who previously enjoyed socializing may show a stark change due to a sudden lack of confidence in how they look.
A fixation on perceived flaws can also be a sign that something is off, according to Dra. Yily De Los Santos. If you notice a loved one constantly picking at their skin, stepping on the scale repeatedly, or obsessing over a certain part of their body, they may be on the road to BDD. Many people who are obsessed with perceived facial flaws become over the top with makeup contouring, attempting to change the shape of their facial structure to hide the flaw.
If your loved one constantly compares the way they look to others, there’s a chance they may be starting to show signs of BDD, according to Dra. Yily De Los Santos. This is easier than ever in the age of social media, when the public has access to the previously private photo albums of celebrities. Dra. Yily De Los Santos says that it’s a problem when someone doesn’t just look at social media out of curiosity, but instead, to pick themselves apart and try to find ways to look like someone else.
While seeking plastic surgery isn’t a sign of BDD on its own, Dra. Yily De Los Santos says that seeking procedures repeatedly and not being satisfied with the results can be a sign of the disorder. Someone who has BDD will never be satisfied with how they look until they get treatment for their disorder, no matter how many cosmetic procedures they have.
Finally, Dra. Yily De Los Santos mentions that constantly seeking reassurance from others can be a sign of BDD. If someone is asking if they look ok, if their flaw is noticeable, or if they’re attractive, they may be looking to someone else to help calm their anxieties. Dra. Yily De Los Santos recommends talking to your loved one and recommending that they see a mental health professional if they’re showing signs of BDD.