If you or a loved one is struggling with body dysmorphic disorder, it’s natural to be wary of asking for outside help.
It’s also common to shrug off psychological treatments in favour of cosmetic treatment, masking or changing the perceived flaw – all of which are ineffective options.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) should actually be the first line of treatment for BDD, Elyse Resch, RDN, an eating disorder therapist and one of the originators of intuitive eating, says. Rather than hiding or changing physical features, CBT addresses peoples’ underlying feelings and perceptions of their bodies.
CBT for BDD can also involve exposure techniques that aim to reduce the repetitive behaviors and habits around the physical preoccupation, such as skin picking or hair pulling.
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Whether you have distorted body image, an eating disorder, or BDD, the idea is to move from body distrust to body trust, Resch says. Without trusting your body, it’ll be hard to cut unhealthy habits like skin picking, purging, or compulsive exercise, Resch says. The ultimate goal is to accept and trust your body how it is – there’s no need to change. There’s no competition or anyone to impress.
“No one walks around saying, ‘I’m just gonna work on getting three inches taller,'” Resch says. “We accept that we cannot change our height or the size of our feet. So why can’t we accept our hips or our nose or our hair?”
At-home coping strategies for BDD
While CBT is a highly effective treatment, there are some things you can do at home if you struggle with BDD. Resch recommends:
- Spend less time on social media, and unfollow profiles that make you feel bad about yourself.
- Make a list of things you love about yourself.
- When you feel intrusive thoughts creeping up, distract yourself with a hobby you love.
- Spend more time doing constructive activities, such as writing, painting, and taking walks.
- Identify triggering events or images, and write down what you feel when you experience these things.
- Find a safe person who you can talk to at any time about your feelings.
There are many free resources that can help with BDD, too: The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation (BDDF) and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) are just two of the plentiful, helpful resources available online.
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