The Connection Between Body Dysmorphia and Addiction

Do you find yourself constantly worried about your appearance or concerned about flaws that may not exist? Worries such as these are typical among individuals struggling with body dysmorphia. There are a number of co-occurring disorders people experience when struggling with addiction. People diagnosed with body dysmorphia and addiction may have turned to substance use as a way to cope, ultimately leading to a substance use disorder (SUD).

When seeking addiction treatment, you should also consider therapy for body dysmorphia. Especially if substance use is your escape for coping with symptoms, getting to the core of the issue is vital. Therapy will teach you how to manage symptoms while in recovery while maintaining your sobriety long-term.

What Is Body Dysmorphia?

According to an article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) “consists of a distressing or impairing preoccupation with imagined or slight defects in appearance.” It is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in terms of symptoms. These similarities sometimes lead to misdiagnoses between body dysmorphia and OCD.

When dealing with body dysmorphia, you develop obsessive thoughts or compulsions about how you look. Obsessive thoughts can include constantly comparing yourself to others. Examples of compulsions include constantly checking yourself in the mirror.

Unfortunately, body dysmorphia goes way beyond caring about appearance. You’ll begin to worry about details or defects that are minimal or non-existent. These perceived flaws are a significant cause for concern. You may realize the irrationality of worrying about something that is not there, but in more severe cases, you may be so convinced that it leads to delusion.

Additionally, body dysmorphia can become severe enough to affect your ability to function at work or school. The symptoms could impact your daily life as well.

The teenage years can be a particularly common and difficult time for people developing body dysmorphia. During this time, you are already on high alert about your body and how it’s changing. Body dysmorphia can potentially exacerbate these anxieties and continue into adulthood. If untreated, body dysmorphia can become all-consuming and even lead to suicide.

Body Dysmorphia and Addiction: Recognizing the Signs

If you’re unsure about whether you have body dysmorphia in addition to addiction, it’s important to look at the signs. Identifying the problem is the first step to receiving proper treatment.

Firstly, your gender identity doesn’t matter. People of every gender struggle with body dysmorphia. Secondly, your body shape and size are also irrelevant. You don’t have to look a specific way to be impacted by this disorder. Rather, specific signs should help you discern if you need help with body dysmorphia. Some of those signs include:

  • Checking oneself in the mirror frequently
  • Anxious habits, such as biting your nails, picking at your skin, or pulling your hair
  • Constantly asking individuals for reassurance regarding your appearance
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Talking about how much you hate your appearance
  • Obsessively touching or discussing a perceived flaw you are concerned with

It will also benefit you to recognize the signs of substance addiction. Common symptoms include:

  • Poor performance or other problems at work or school
  • Spending outrageous amounts of money to buy substances
  • Exhibiting unusual or risky behavior
  • Needing more substances to get the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop substance use
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable

Addiction affects people in many ways, but if you recognize some of these situations, consult your doctor or seek treatment immediately.

Body Dysmorphia and Self-Medication

The connection between body dysmorphia and addiction is not only apparent when you’re trying to cope with the mental health repercussions of dysmorphia. You may also turn to substance use to alter how you look.

As a person with body dysmorphia, you might focus on weight and muscle mass. To increase muscle mass, you may use steroids for quick, significant results. On the flip side, if your body dysmorphia emphasizes thinness as a value, you may try to lose weight may use cocaine to reduce your appetite. In either situation, you put yourself at risk of becoming dependent, not to mention putting your body at risk by using these drugs.

These are only two examples of how you may try to alter your appearance in unhealthy ways. You might abuse laxatives, binge eat and purge, or refuse to eat. Also, you may refuse to eat and spend countless hours in the gym, hoping it will help you lose weight. Practices like these are unhealthy and dangerous and can cause adverse long-term harm to the body.

Treating Body Dysmorphia and Addiction

Though body dysmorphia and addiction are different beasts, they share similar treatment methods.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help ease body dysmorphia and addiction symptoms. This form of talk therapy helps you identify the root cause of the disorder and learn how to control triggers or symptoms.
  • Certain medications may help treat co-occurring body dysmorphia and SUD. Antidepressants can treat body dysmorphia symptoms, but they should only be used if you’re medication compliant. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is another instrumental tool in treating SUD and co-occurring disorders.

Body dysmorphia and addiction affect everyone differently. That means the best treatment for you may need to be determined upon further assessments by a doctor or mental health professional.

If you are trying to cope with body dysmorphia and addiction but require further assistance, seek professional help today.

Are you constantly worrying about how you look or obsessively thinking about perceived flaws regarding your appearance? Do you notice yourself looking in the mirror too frequently or requiring reassurance from others about your appearance? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be struggling with body dysmorphia. In an attempt to self-medicate or alter your appearance, you might’ve turned to substances. Excel Treatment Center can treat co-occurring body dysmorphia and substance use disorder. You don’t have to suffer through these disorders alone. We offer a variety of therapy modalities to empower your healing. When you’re ready to change your patterns for the better, call Excel Treatment Center at (833) 883-9235

Request a Confidential Callback
Find Out If Your Insurance Covers Treatment at Excel