Body Dysmorphia and Skin
We’ve all had days when we feel a little self-conscious about a blemish and spend longer gazing into the mirror, more time trying to cover it up and are tempted to give it a quick pick or a squeeze. But when does paying a little extra interest in your skin tip into something more serious? In this month’s journal titled ‘Body Dysmorphia and Skin’, we talk about body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), particularly in relation to your skin.
Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder that affects the way a person perceives their physical appearance. People who suffer from body dysmorphia have a distorted view of their appearance, which can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
It can affect any part of the body, including the skin.
How your skin looks and feels can significantly affect your self-esteem and confidence. It is common to have some concerns about your skin’s appearance, and in some cases, these concerns may be valid.
It’s important to realise that not everyone preoccupied with their skin’s appearance has body dysmorphia. However, when these concerns become obsessive and interfere with your daily life, they may be a sign of body dysmorphia.
People with body dysmorphia related to their skin often have an obsessive preoccupation with their skin’s appearance, constantly checking their skin, and worrying about perceived flaws. They may spend hours in front of the mirror examining their skin, picking at blemishes, or attempting to cover up perceived flaws with makeup or clothing. They may spend an inordinate amount of time applying creams or ointments to their skin and also avoid social situations or activities that they believe will draw attention to their skin.
In some cases, a person struggling with BDD may have an underlying skin condition such as acne, hyperpigmentation, eczema or psoriasis. Picking, scratching, over-application of products and wearing very heavy makeup can actually exacerbate these conditions. This can increase anxiety over the skin’s appearance and thus the sufferer enters a vicious cycle.
Social media may contribute to body dysmorphia related to skin. The endless stream of images of flawless, possibly filtered, skin on social media can lead to unrealistic expectations and an unhealthy preoccupation with one’s appearance. As a result, people may develop unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved with their skin, leading to a greater level of dissatisfaction.
Sometimes a person with body dysmorphia may request extreme or unnecessary treatments. An experienced dermatologist is trained to recognise the signs of body dysmorphia related to skin. They will be able to provide you with the support and resources you need. There is a range of treatments for body dysmorphic disorder related to the skin. These typically involve a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can help individuals identify and challenge their distorted thoughts about their appearance. Medication, such as antidepressants, can help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression that often accompany body dysmorphia.
A dermatologist should work with you to help you feel confident and comfortable in your skin, recommending skincare products and treatments tailored to you. If they have concerns about how they feel about your skin, they may also suggest you seek help from a mental health professional who can provide specific support.
If you are worried about how you feel about your skin, consult with a dermatologist about developing a treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs and talk to them about your concerns. They will be able to signpost you to any further support if needed.