Is There a Body Dysmorphia Test for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Is There a Body Dysmorphia Test?

For several decades, unrealistic and subjective beauty standards have consistently been perpetuated by society and social media. Sadly, such standards of beauty have given rise to more severe mental health conditions, especially body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Treating body dysmorphic disorder is a nuanced process, so experts in the healthcare field have created a diagnostic tool known as the body dysmorphia test to help combat symptoms and improve the quality of life of individuals that deal with the condition.

We'll bring you up to speed on body dysmorphic disorder, how body dysmorphic testing works, and if it’s accurate. 

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) falls under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, specifically obsessive-compulsive disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder is defined as an excessive and persistent preoccupation with a perceived defect or flaw in one’s physical appearance [1].

Though more common in women, body dysmorphic disorder affects roughly 1.7-2.9% of the general population, with more instances in children and teenagers [2]. 

Causes and Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Although the exact causes of body dysmorphic disorder are not fully understood, experts believe that it may be a cumulative result of various biological, psychological, and environmental factors [3, 4]. 

Some of these include:

  • Genetic factors – BDD may be passed down from one generation to the next

  • Neurobiological factors – abnormal neurotransmitter levels in the brain (i.e. low or irregular levels of serotonin)

  • Cognitive factors – negative thought patterns, including perfectionism or distorted views on one’s self 

  • Social factors – influence of social media and other societal pressures

  • Life experiences – instances of childhood trauma or bullying that may cause low self-esteem

  • History of mental health conditions – related mental health issues may exacerbate BDD symptoms (i.e. anxiety disorder, severe depression, etc.) 

Oftentimes, individuals who struggle with body dysmorphic disorder have recurring or intrusive thoughts about their own perceived body image flaws or physical imperfections.

Other common symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Excessive grooming, comparing appearance to others, and seeking reassurance

  • Spending a lot of time looking at the perceived flaws in the mirror

  • Avoiding social situations due to embarrassment over appearance

  • Consistently talking or expressing concern about body image 

  • Severe emotional distress 

  • Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem

  • Substance abuse 

  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Like most other mental health disorders, symptom management is imperative to recovery. An effective way to do this is by taking a body dysmorphic test. 

What is the Body Dysmorphic Test?

A common tool for having body dysmorphic disorder diagnosed is the body dysmorphic test. This test is conducted by a trained and licensed mental health professional to assess the presence and severity of symptoms associated with body dysmorphia. 

According to the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, the test is used as a preliminary diagnostic tool for BDD, which can then be further assessed and confirmed via comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. 

How it Works

The body dysmorphia standardized test may involve either a self-reported questionnaire or a structured interview. In either situation, the individual will be asked the following questions: 

  • “How often do you think about the flaws in your appearance?”

  • “How much time do you spend grooming, comparing yourself to others, or seeking reassurance about your appearance?”

  • “How much does your concern about your appearance interfere with your daily activities, such as work or relationships?”

  • “Have you ever avoided social situations due to embarrassment about your appearance?”

If this test is performed in a clinical setting, it may also be accompanied by an exhaustive clinical evaluation, including a thorough review of a patient’s medical and/or psychiatric history, along with a routine physical exam. 

Once the test is complete, the clinician will assess the patient’s symptoms and behaviors along with any potential risk factors that may be triggering body dysmorphic disorder to determine whether or not they meet the criteria for a BDD diagnosis. 

If a diagnosis is made, the clinician will then proceed to develop a tailored treatment plan for the patient. This may include a combination of therapies and medication. 

According to recent studies exploring body dysmorphic disorder treatment, experts have found that a combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive behavior therapy seems to be the most efficacious for the majority of patients [5].

Is the Test Accurate?

The accuracy of the body dysmorphic test relies solely on who is administering it. While there are online screening tests available, it’s important to note that these tools are not intended for medical diagnostic purposes. 

Only a licensed professional, such as a psychiatrist, therapist, or medical doctor, can provide a formal diagnosis and treatment plan for body dysmorphic disorder. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Prevention

Though challenging, it is certainly possible to prevent body dysmorphic disorder. Since the exact causes of this disorder are not fully understood, experts suggest generalized strategies that help reduce the risk of developing BDD or, at the very least, reduce symptom severity. 

Some beneficial strategies include: 

  • Exercises that focus on body positivity and self-acceptance (i.e. positive self-talk, meditation, mindfulness practices, etc.) 

  • Cognitive-behavioral techniques that help challenge and overcome negative thought patterns

  • Limiting exposure to social media content that perpetuates harmful or unrealistic beauty standards 

  • Seeking formal treatment to target underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • Building a supportive social network to provide a strong source of comfort through adversity and reduce feelings or behaviors that may result in social isolation

Why Body Dysmorphic Disorder Should Be Taken Seriously

Body dysmorphic disorder is a growing problem across many age groups. Though typically seen more in women, this mental health condition affects people of all genders by challenging the way we perceive ourselves and our bodies. 

Thanks to social media, the use of filters and "Photoshopping" is modifying how we view “physical perfection.” In many cases, these standards are unattainable and create a distorted representation of "beauty" and "attractiveness."  

Body dysmorphic testing is a beneficial diagnostic tool used to target individuals who may be struggling with BDD symptoms and require treatment. While there are plenty of online tests available, the most effective and medically recommended option for diagnosis and treatment is through a qualified mental health professional.

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