His name is “dysmorphophobia“, also known as “body dysmorphic disorder”, and is a condition characterized by aexcessive preoccupation with one or more physical defectsin reality benignif not indeed non-existent. Those who suffer from it spend hours and hours looking in the mirror, wearing excessive makeup, constantly judging and comparing themselves to others. Excessive attention to the body, the result of which is a partial or even total impairment of normal daily activities.
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Who it affects and what are the symptoms
This disorder mainly affects children teenagersfemale and male, and is closely related to changes in puberty, but can also occur in adult subjects who over time have failed to gain self-confidence.
Most of the time, sufferers are unaware that they look normal, but instead are led to believe that others are watching or laughing at their appearance. The main symptoms, which are discomfort, pain and shame, they can develop gradually or suddenly, and with varying intensity. Most find their worries difficult to control and make few, if any, attempts to resist them.
Worry, which often becomes almost a real “obsession”, can identify every part of the body, from the nose to the eyes, from the mouth to the ears, passing through the hair, the skin and the down, to the arms, legs and buttocks. These spaces struggle to be accepted and are judged, on the basis of their size and shape, as “Ugly”, “unsightly”, “painful”, “deformed”, even “repulsive”.
As a result, dysmorphophobes often spend several hours a day look in the mirrorThey tend to comb or wash repeatedlychange frequently i clothes to mask the defect, they undergo continuous treatments (doctors, dentists or surgeries), as well as being constantly confronted with the physical appearance of others, feeling unwell and seeking reassurance.
How to tell it apart
But, how to distinguish a more than normal and common concern related to a minimal (completely normal) physical defect from dysmorphophobia? The substantial difference lies in the severe anxiety disorders which considerably compromise normal daily activitiesto the point of avoiding social situations such as school, work or outside contact.
So if there is one concern for one or more imperfections that other people find insignificant or do not notice, if they occur excessive repetitive behaviors and you come to avoid sociability because you are ashamed of your physical appearance, you probably suffer from this disorder.
A psychological and not an aesthetic problem
Awareness of dysmorphophobia is often very poor: the subjects are unaware that the problem is not aesthetic but psychologicalbelieving that their concern is based on the presence of a serious and real defect and not on a altered way of perceiving oneself. Reassurance or experiences of personal gratification, as well as attempts to improve one’s appearance are therefore not enough.
Body dysmorphia can be effectively treated with psychotherapy which includes some motivational techniques, fundamental to develop a fairer and more realistic aesthetic vision of oneself, to feel comfortable in company and to avoid repeating certain dysfunctional behaviors. In severe cases, specialists consider it necessary to combine cognitive-behavioral therapy with medical therapy with drugs serotonergic.
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