Bipolar Type I Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Defining Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a documented mental health problem that involves preoccupation with minor (or imagined) abnormalities in their physical appearance. The recurrent thoughts usually make them depressed and distressed, leading to further complications. People with body dysmorphic disorder usually spend a lot of their time obsessively focusing their energy and thoughts on an apparent physical defect that may or may not exist. In most cases, the thought and obsession with the apparent defect maybe a deter one from participating in social gatherings. As compared to patients of Type II Bipolar Disorder, patients of Type I disorder face less frequent, but more severe, bouts of depression.

In many ways, BDD is similar to obsessive compulsive disorder and the patients tend to display repetitive behavior in order to overcome their anxiety and stress. Such disorders are usually a result of chemical imbalances (mostly neurotransmitters like serotonin) in the brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  • Obsessing about a particular physical feature
  • Obsessing about physical defects
  • Removing oneself from social interactions
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling ashamed of oneself
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Perfectionism
  • Compulsive mirror checking
  • An obsession with camouflaging the defect
  • Seeking plastic surgery
  • Approval-seeking from peers

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of BDD are unclear and most people mistake it for OCD. Broadly speaking, environmental and psychological causes can lead up to BDD. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to acquiring this disorder because of rapid changes in their physical appearance. Unforeseen conditions like acne, skin disorders, balding hair, wrinkled skin and other pigmentation disorders can lead the person to be excessively concerned about their condition.

Parenting style and the environment in which a child grows up can also increase the risk for him/her to develop BDD. If parents are overly critical or excessively concerned about aesthetics and physical appearance, the child tends to see even minor physical defects as huge imperfections, causing them to perceive minor body changes as physical abnormalities that need to be repaired.

Such individuals are exposed to a number of risk factors like:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Suicidal ideation


BDD can be treated with a combination of psychological and methods often found in a rehabilitation facility that specializes with body image disorders. Patients should undergo cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in order to understand and attempt to reverse their thoughts and behaviors when faced with obsession about a physical feature.

Sometimes, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are administered to patients with BDD in combination with CBT. Anti-depressants like fluoxetine are also commonly used to calm down individuals with BDD if they are faced with an overpowering, often distressing urge to “do something” about the physical defect they are upset about.

BDD can also be treated by with targeted psychotherapy on patients, on a case to case basis. This can help the patients realize that their obsession is the problem and recovery will help them deal with the undesirable features in a healthy way.


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