Girls are notorious for checking and re-checking themselves in the mirror before they walk out the door. (Yes, guys are guilty too.) They check their hair, their skin, their makeup, their clothes, and of course, their figure. While most of the time this is just “girls being girls”, occasionally it’s something more serious. People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a severe body obsession, truly do not see themselves as other do, meaning they think they’re fat or ugly when they’re not. BDD isn’t something that can be turned off or brushed away, and it’s not just poor self-esteem. It’s a condition that can become so serious that people isolate themselves at home, need to be hospitalized, or even become suicidal. Affecting 2% of the population, BDD is even more common than schizophrenia or even bipolar disorder.
It’s difficult to understand conditions affecting the brain, but a study in Neuropyschopharmacology shows researchers are one step in closer in understanding the process of BDD. The study found that people with BDD actually have “bad wiring” in their brain, meaning the signals sent in the brain are disrupted or faulty. This abnormal activity was found in the visual and emotional processing sections of the brain, which can explain why these individuals “see” things differently. The study reports that the worse the brain connections were, the deeper the severity of symptoms, especially compulsion.
“Bad” connections were specifically found in areas that interpret visual input and recognize emotion. The nerve transmissions in these areas seem to literally get lost in translation, resulting in the misperception of the individuals appearance and their fixation on it. Knowing what to look for in the brain can help identify the disorder earlier, which can help promote and increase likelihood of treatment.