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​Seek help if your body image is causing you stress, GPs urge

GPs in Southwark are encouraging anyone who has negative thoughts about their body to seek help, to ensure their symptoms can be treated before they escalate.

Nearly one in three adults say they have felt so stressed by body image or their appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, according to research.

Although it is normal to be interested in your appearance, spending a lot of time worrying about a specific part of your body may be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

BDD is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, which are often unnoticeable to others. It affects men and women of all ages but is most common among teenagers and young adults.

BDD can seriously affect your daily life, including your work, social life and relationships. It can also lead to depression, self-harm and even thoughts of suicide.
But the symptoms of BDD can get better with treatment.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May), GPs in Southwark are highlighting the symptoms of BDD – and reassuring people that support is on hand.    

You might have BDD if you:

  • Worry a lot about a specific area of your body
  • Spend a lot of time comparing your looks with other people's
  • Either look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
  • Go to a lot of effort to conceal flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
  • Pick at your skin to make it "smooth".

For more information on BDD, including the treatment options available and a list of support groups, visit the page on body dysmorphic disorder on the NHS website.

And don't miss the latest Southwark News column from our chair, Dr Jonty Heaversedge, which focuses on body image and what to do if you feel pressure to conform to unrealistic ideas of the 'perfect body'.