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What You Need to Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Addiction

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is growing among teens due to social media, societal standards, and constant comparisons to other people’s bodies. In a day and time where body image has become of great importance to teens, it is necessary to look out for signs of BDD. Knowing how to have a healthy self-image is important for maintaining mental health and preventing further co-occurring issues like addiction.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder that affects people’s perception of their self-image. People with body dysmorphia fixate on specific flaws in their appearance that typically aren’t noticeable to other people. BDD causes an intense fixation on one’s appearance that can disrupt a person’s everyday life. It involves checking one’s appearance in mirrors, repeatedly seeking reassurance from others, or getting cosmetic procedures to fix their “flaws.”

The majority of people in life have flawed beliefs themselves. However, people with BDD let their flaws consume their attention and take drastic measures to fix them. This form of constant negative thinking about one’s flaws can become intense insecurities which can cause depression, anxiety, and often trigger suicidal thoughts.

Signs of Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia typically develops around adolescence and is most prominent during the teenage years. It occurs in both males and females. The most common body parts that a person with BDD obsesses over are the stomach, face, chest, hair, skin, and hips. Such a skewed perception of self can lead to damaging thoughts and behaviors. It is important t understand the symptoms of body dysmorphia as they occur.

Symptoms of body dysmorphia can include:

  • A strong belief that there is a flaw or defect in appearance that makes them appear “ugly”
  • Seeking out cosmetic procedures to fix body issues
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Consistently comparing yourself to others
  • Avoiding mirrors
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, or ashamed
  • Trying to hide parts of yourself with clothing or other items
  • Constantly exercising

Body dysmorphia can also look like or incorporate other disorders. It is typical for someone with BDD to experience depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance use disorder.

When Addiction and Body Dysmorphia Co-occur

Individuals with BDD have a higher risk of developing an addiction. Dealing with a negative self-image brings on many uncomfortable feelings about oneself. People who abuse substances often attempt to self-medicate to cope with negative feelings such as low-self esteem, suicidal thoughts, stress, and anxiety. Because many individuals with BDD experience these exact feelings, they often turn to drugs and alcohol use to cope with their distorted self-image.

They may even be using drugs and alcohol to cope with other co-occurring mental conditions that accompany BDD. Body dysmorphia can also trigger eating disorders due to food affecting how the body looks and feels. Someone with BDD may use alcohol or drugs like cocaine to increase or suppress their appetite in an attempt to control how they look.

Treatment for Addiction and BDD

Roughly half of the individuals with BDD will develop a substance use disorder at the same time or later on in life. If you or someone you love have a dual diagnosis of both addiction and BDD, finding a residential treatment center that treats comorbidity is necessary for recovery. To fully heal and maintain a drug-free lifestyle, you have to address both illnesses as one influences the other.

The first step in the recovery process for your teen will be to get clean of all drugs. This typically includes safely completing a medically assisted detox program to go through the withdrawal process. From there, your child will meet with a therapist who will continue your child’s treatment process and determine further actions that are necessary for recovery. Depending on your child’s needs, this could range from starting medication to trying different forms of therapy or holistic treatments.


Two of the most effective treatments for body dysmorphia are CBT and SSRIs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows the individual to talk with a professional therapist about their self-image. The therapist will work on techniques that the individual can try to incorporate into their everyday life that helps build higher self-esteem and confidence in appearance. Although researchers have found no direct cause for BDD, it is believed that the problem could be related to the brain’s inability to make serotonin.

SSRIs are antidepressants that are most often used for medication to treat BDD. It is important to remember that a clinical evaluation by licensed professionals will help you get the most accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for recovery.

Teens go through many silent battles that do not get noticed or addressed until it is too late. If you believe your teen may have body dysmorphic disorder and use drugs to cope, reach out for help today. At Clearfork Academy, our programs work to get to the root of the addiction to help teens achieve a sober lifestyle. This includes treating co-occurring disorders such as body dysmorphia or other mental health disorders. We offer a safe and inviting addiction treatment center dedicated to helping teen boys overcome substance use and mental health disorders. Sobriety is hard work, but you and your teen do not need to go it alone. Our staff provides our patients with the support and consistency necessary to beat addiction while teaching coping skills to overcome everyday challenges. If your teen is currently dealing with BDD and addiction, reach out to Clearfork Academy today and call (817) 259-2597.

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