Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Very few of us are ever satisfied by our appearance. Plastic surgery, permanent eyeliner, liposuction, and a series of other cosmetic procedures make the insecure more comfortable in their own bodies. But the millions of adults who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) don’t quite have these normal concerns about the way they look. Instead, their minds are so consumed by thoughts of the ugliness they perceive, they may go so far as putting their lives on hold. They avoid social occasions and work out of fear of ridicule or offending others with the way they look. Adults with BDD constantly look for affirmation from friends and family, failing to realize that the problem lies with their perception of their own bodies, and not the body itself.

Adults with BDD often insist that plastic surgery will get rid of their anxieties and make them feel less self-conscious about their bodies. However, such procedures only provide temporary relief. After a few weeks of peace, they’ll find something “wrong” with their body that needs correction. It’s not uncommon for such patients to have experienced over 20 cosmetic procedures.

There is no treatment for BDD per se, but experts find that this disorder is usually co-morbid with mental conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or anxiety. Given that these disorders are usually caused by low levels of serotonin, their treatments apply to BDD as well. In some cases, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft (sertraline) or Prozac (fluoxetine) reduce the severity of the symptoms, especially when combined with psychotherapy. However, the doses required for BDD are significantly higher than the ones used to treat depression, which increases the risk of side effects.

One other way to elevate serotonin levels is to consume more oily fish, which are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid EPA. Current studies confirmed that pure EPA from fish oil is just as effective as Prozac in terms of serotonin increase, thereby making it a powerful treatment for body dysmporphic disorder without the medication’s side effects.

Treating issues with body image can be more effective and efficient when the patient uses EPA-only omega-3 supplements everyday for a period of 3 months. The daily dose should be around 4,000 mg, but can be reduced if improvements are seen. Vegetarians can still receive the healing benefits of omega-3 fats when they take supplements containing evening primrose oil and echium oil, plant-based sources of this important nutrient.

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