If somebody you know is constantly aggrieved, bordering on unhealthy fixation with their appearance, while constantly complaining of a disfigured self-image, it could be ominous signs of a brain dysmorphic disorder.
A new insight published in the archives of general psychiatry has revealed that victims of such a disorder constantly visualize themselves with a distorted face even when their appearance is normal. They see a disfigured reflection of themselves and continue to believe obsessively about their negative appearance. The defects could just be figment of their imagination or small defects blown out of proportion by the erroneous function of the brain. Even after reassurance, the negative thought pattern continues to haunt the victims.
Also known as BDD, this condition afflicts about 1-2 percent of the people in the world. The disorder drives many of its victims to cosmetic surgeons, and many patients go under the knife in vain attempts to rectify their features. Experts are unable to pin the cause to of this disorder to one single factor, though a variety of factors from the genes to environment could play a role.
Dr Jamie Feusner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles and team leader of the current research, conducted a study of 12 patients suffering this disorder. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, he studies the functions of their brain while they viewed black and white images of others appearance. This was compared to scans of normal people who performed the same exercise.
Dr Feusner found clear variations in the way the right and left sides of the brain functioned in people suffering BDD, though there were no structural differences. The brain scans of people suffering BDD showed that they used the left side of the brain much more than the right side.
"This is the first time where there's evidence that there is kind of a biological abnormality that may be contributing to the symptoms - the distorted body image - in body dysmorphic disorder. The left side of the brain really is really specialized for doing more detailed and analytic process, whereas the right side of the brain processes more holistically and globally," Dr Feusner said.
More than 25% of the people who suffer BDD make attempts to end their life.