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In addition to your perception of your physical attractiveness, body image has other dimensions, including:
When your body image is poor and causes significant psychological distress, you may meet the criteria for body dysmorphic disorder. However, other body image concerns can be addressed in therapy as well.
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)
Here are some common symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder. You don’t need to experience all of these symptoms to meet the criteria for body dysmorphic disorder:
Preoccupation with perceived physical defects or flaws that are slight or not observable by others
Repetitive behaviors (mirror checking, excessive grooming, skin picking, reassurance-seeking) or mental acts (comparing) in response to the physical appearance concerns
Excessive attempts to hide a perceived physical defect or flaw
Avoidance of situations that provoke fear of scrutiny of physical appearance by others
Seeking unnecessary cosmetic procedures
Please note that this is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you believe you have a body dysmorphic disorder, it is important that you seek the help of a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.
Other Body Image Concerns
Even if you don't not meet the full criteria for body dysmorphic disorder, your body image concerns can be addressed in therapy.
Most commonly, individuals with body image concerns are most preoccupied with their body fat, but this would only constitute body dysmorphic disorder if the individual is preoccupied with body fat that doesn't exist (perception of being overweight despite indications of normal or low body mass index).
Body image concerns are commonly accompanied by low self-esteem, as individuals who have negative thoughts about their appearance also have negative thoughts about themselves.
Treatment should address negative thoughts an individual has about their body and themselves as a whole.
Treatment for Body Image Issues
Treatment for body image concerns involves identifying negative thought patterns directed toward your physical appearance. These negative thought patterns are then challenged and modified throughout the course of therapy.
If the body image concerns result in any form of social avoidance, this avoidance is addressed as well through systematic re-integration into those social settings.
Finally, treatment aims to reduce repetitive grooming or checking behaviors that reinforce the negative beliefs you might have about your physical appearance.