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The Transition House, Inc.

How to be supportive to someone with body dysmorphic disorder


It’s easy to fixate on our flaws and even obsess over them. When does this self-consciousness become an issue, though? Those suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) focus on and obsess over these flaws to a point where it interferes with their daily life. According to WebMD, people who have body dysmorphia “can't control their negative thoughts and don't believe people who tell them that they look fine. Their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning." It’s not uncommon for them to isolate themselves, or miss work or social events in fear that others will notice their flaws. In some cases, individuals may even undergo unnecessary plastic surgeries to correct perceived imperfections, never finding satisfaction with the results.

If someone you love has BDD, the first step you can take is to educate yourself. There are a lot of common misconceptions that surround the disorder. Learn about how the disorder affects your loved one's daily life and their perception of themselves. Learning is the first step towards understanding and having a conversation around the issue. We’ve put together three things to keep in mind when talking to your loved one about body dysmorphic disorder:

Obsession with their appearance isn’t vanity

An individual obsessing over their appearance for hours isn’t a source of vanity, it is a serious disorder – one that causes extreme emotional distress. The person who is suffering from BDD sees a very different version of themselves than you do. It might be difficult to understand why they would be so self-conscious if they saw what you did, but this disorder is anything but rational. It's important to keep this in mind.

Encourage them to seek help

Like any disorder, BDD is treatable. Though it might be difficult, encourage your loved one to find help. Counseling for body dysmorphic disorder is commonly treated with a combination of medication and counseling. Whatever your loved one chooses for their treatment plan, be supportive. Getting help is difficult first step and one that should be applauded.

Remember recovery is a process

Overcoming BDD takes times. Nothing happens overnight. Recovery takes patience, commitment, and the right guidance from counselors. Each person needs to overcome his or her problems at his or her own pace, even though this may be a lengthy process. Keep an optimistic outlook on your loved one’s recovery. Listen to their wishes and respect the involvement that they would like from you during this process. 

If you or someone you love is looking for counseling in Orlando, or for body dysmorphic counseling, contact us! We’re with you every step of the way.

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