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Exploring Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Men

written by: Roohi Khan • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/25/2010

BDD or body dysmorphic disorder in men is rarely diagnosed and recognized since men either do not reveal its symptoms or are convinced that their inaccurate beliefs about their appearance are indeed true. Read more about this body image disorder in this article.

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    BDD or Body dysmorphic disorder in men is as common as in women. It is characterized by a preoccupation with an imagined physical defect in appearance or an excessive concern with a minimal defect. The obsession causes significant distress and impairment in the individual's daily life. Let's take a brief look at the causes and symptoms of this disorder characterized by a distorted body image.

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    Signs and Symptoms of BDD in men

    BDD in men usually takes the form of muscle dysmorphia, which is a preoccupation with one's masculinity. Here are some of the signs and symptoms that are present in men with body dysmorphic disorder:

    • There may be a preoccupation with skin, hair, nose, or genitals. Excessive concern about scarring of face, thinning of hair, and size and shape of the nose may be present.
    • Men with BDD perform compulsive acts trying to examine or fix the imagined or minimal physical defect and spend a lot of time on this.
    • They are constantly checking the part of the body in the mirror, comparing it with others, hiding it, seeking reassurance, or grooming it.
    • Men with muscle dysmorphia believe that they are too small and do not have enough muscle mass, although in reality they have above average muscle mass.
    • Compulsive working out at the gym and excessive concern about diet and dietary supplements is seen in men with muscle dysmorphia. These men may abuse anabolic steroids in an attempt to build more muscles.
    • Since men with body dysmorphic disorder feel self-conscious about their appearance, they often avoid social settings.
    • Impairment in social, occupational, and other aspects of functioning are also present due to their excessive concern about the way they look.
    • Social isolation, suicidal behavior, and repeated dermatological procedures may also be seen.

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    Causes of BDD in Men

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the standard reference for all psychiatric disorders, classifies body dysmorphic disorder as a somatoform disorder. This means that in this illness, psychological problems take the form of physical symptoms. However, BDD is quite similar in features to obsessive-compulsive disorder since there is a preoccupation with one's appearance followed by compulsive behaviors such as excessive exercising or repeatedly looking into the mirror. When weight and diet are major concerns, this condition takes the form of an eating disorder.

    The causes of BDD in men can be both neurobiological and psychosocial. Some studies have found that the levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin are lower than normal in such individuals. Medications found to be effective in the treatment of OCD have also been found to work for muscle dysmorphia in men which further proves that there may be a link with OCD, and that there may be a probable biological cause of this body image disorder.

    Exposure to mass media can be a psychosocial cause of BDD in men. At a young age, men are exposed to images of what are considered to be perfect images of the male form. This, in turn, can lead to low self-esteem and causes them to believe that anything less than what they see in magazines or on TV is imperfect. They, thus, develop distorted perceptions of their own faces and bodies which is called body dysmorphic disorder.

    Children with parents who are excessively concerned about their appearance or are highly critical of their looks are also more likely to develop BDD. It is also believed that buried feelings about childhood trauma or abuse could take the form of obsession with a part of one's body.

    Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder in men is difficult since they are convinced that the defects are indeed present and are excessive. However, once they are able to recognize that they indeed have a problem, cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy can indeed prove to be beneficial for the individual concerned.

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    References

    Body dysmorphic disorder in men: Psychiatric treatments are usually effective. BMJ: 2001 November 3; 323(7320): 1015–1016

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1121529/

    The Harvard Medical School: What is body dysmorphic disorder?

    http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0905b.shtml

    Merck & Co., Inc.: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

    http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec15/ch204/ch204b.html

    HealthyPlace.com, Inc.: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

    http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/main/body-dysmorphic-disorder/menu-id-69/