Body Dysmorphia

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Health Assured team

10 February 2022

Body dysmorphia is an illness which can impact an individual’s personal and professional life.  

As an employer, you aren’t expected to cure them. Instead, your aim is to provide a healthy workplace, where triggers for their condition are eliminated.

If you fail or neglect employees with medical conditions, you could face discrimination claims–resulting in costly fines and business damages.

Read all about body dysmorphia, causes for the condition, and legal rights for employees suffering in the workplace.

What is body dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia (or BDD) is a mental health condition related to body image.

An individual might be diagnosed with BDD if they have:

  • Obsessive worries about perceived flaws in their appearance or physique, which are either unnoticeable or not seen by others.
  • Compulsive behaviours, like excessively looking in the mirror, which help deal with a perceived flaw.

Body dysmorphia is closely related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It can seriously impact a person’s daily life, making it hard to work efficiently or form relationships.

What are the signs of body dysmorphia?

There are several signs which present symptoms of BDD. For example, people might:

  • Obsessively worry about their face or body.
  • Frequently compare themselves with others.
  • Use mirrors often or avoid them altogether.
  • Go to great lengths to hide their flaws.

Common obsessive worries

People with BDD may experience intrusive thoughts about one area of their physique, or several areas. Common obsessive worries can link to other health issues, like:

Muscle dysmorphia

This is when people experience obsessive worries about their muscles. Although symptoms can be found in all genders, it was once predominantly seen in males. Body dysmorphia signs are seen through excessive exercising (particularly weights) and taking steroids or other substances.

Eating disorders

This is when people experience concerns with their actual shape or weight; whereas body dysmorphia focuses more on appearance. But they do both share similar symptoms, like excessively worrying about physicality or developing compulsive behaviours.

What causes body dysmorphia?

It’s unknown what precisely causes BDD, as there can be many contributing factors. However, some common causes include:

  • Chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Physical and mental traumas.
  • Low self-esteem or depression.
  • Perfectionism or competitiveness with others.

Legal rights for people with mental health conditions

Under the Equality Act (2010), employers have a duty of care for their staff. The legislation states, you must protect employees from mistreatment and discrimination.

This includes caring for their physical and mental health. You can ensure this legal duty through things like workplace adjustments and therapy sessions.

Is body dysmorphia a mental illness?

Body dysmorphia is considered a mental illness. And if conditions meet, it can be legally class as a disability.

It’s wrongfully believed that people with body dysmorphia are vain, egotistic, or self-obsessed. It’s a mental health condition which can dictate a person’s entire life.

During work, you might not physically see symptoms, or think conditions are that bad. However, avoid discriminating against someone’s mental health or disability. Or you could face various legal claims and costly penalties.

How to help someone with body dysmorphia

You may meet several dilemmas whilst helping someone with BDD. But as an employer, you must apply a legal and moral duty for your workers.

With the right guidance and support, you can protect workplace morale and wellbeing. Here’s how to help employees with body dysmorphia:

Provide medical support

If an employee raises concerns for BDD, provide them with medical support. You can refer them to GPs and mental health professionals. They'll be able to offer diagnoses based on the level of individual conditions.

If symptoms are considered mild, they can recommend counselling through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBD).

And if the symptoms are more severe, they might offer antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), alongside CBT for body dysmorphia.

Make reasonable adjustments

Employers have a legal duty to ensure staff members with medical conditions work safely. Reasonable adjustments can provide support and eliminate any potential triggers during work.

You can offer reasonable adjustments such as:

  • Flexible working hours.
  • Additional time for task completion.
  • Remote working.
  • Raising awareness for health conditions.
  • Training on emotional intelligence.

Provide counselling and support groups

Some people find it extremely helpful to talk about their conditions. This can be done through counselling sessions or support groups.

You can also offer employee assistance programmes which can help them manage their condition and live a better work-life balance.

Focus on mental wellbeing

Taking care of one’s mental wellbeing can help manage workplace stress and anxiety.

Some people find practicing mindfulness helps with mental health illnesses. It can also improve their bond with personal wellbeing, as well as external relationships.

Get expert guidance on body dysmorphia with Health Assured

Dealing with health issues, like BDD, might seem complex or daunting. But you have a legal responsibility to care for them, not cure them.

Neglecting employees with mental health conditions can lead to discrimination claims–creating penalties and damages for your business.

Health Assured offers expert guidance on how to deal with body dysmorphia and other mental health issues. Our teams offer specialised knowledge on employee wellbeing whilst considering your business needs.

We also provide a 24/7 helpline, that’s open 365 days a year – helping you care for your staff all year round. Arrange a call back from an expert today on 0808 143 6143.

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