Body image issues lead to asocial behaviour, say experts
Delhi doctors suspect that the 22-year-old who committed suicide on Friday because she felt that her “body brought her insult” and made her feel “caged” might have been suffering from a type of body dysmorphic disorder.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a very serious condition that makes a person obsess about a particular flaw in their appearance.
“Usually body dysmorphic disorder does not happen in isolation; there are other underlying conditions. But, the girl does seem to have some sort of body image issue. However, to be considered as a disorder more information would be needed,” said Nisha Sachdeva, consultant clinical psychologist at Holy Family hospital.
“Depression might also lead to such body image issues because it lowers the self-esteem of a person. The problem is further aggravated by body shaming that we have normalised; it can be a trigger for someone to take a drastic step,” she said.
An estimated 0.7% to 2% of the population suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. The disorder is seen in 7% to 15% people seeking cosmetic surgery and 12% seeking dermatological treatments, according to a study.
“People with body dysmorphia usually obsess over one part of the body, like the lower jaw, teeth, nose, the shape of the lips or even the breasts. This leads them to seek cosmetic surgery. Of course, a surgery should not be offered to such people because it will not treat the underlying condition and the anxiety is likely to come back,” said SK Khandelwal, former head of department of psychiatry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The anxiety over the body image also means that the people become asocial and finally reach a stage where they decide to take their life.
“People are so concerned about how they look that they start avoiding social situations, stop going out, leave their
jobs and in extreme cases might want to take their life. Although, in most cases a suicide attempt is a cry for help rather than a desire to die,” said Khandelwal.
Media has a very prominent role in promoting the disorder, he believed.
“Although it is a rare disorder, the numbers have definitely gone up in the last three decades — since the time we have started idealising the Western zero figure body type. This leads to a lot of eating disorders. And, the movies and fashion magazines glorifying a certain type of image is definitely a reason,” he said.