In psychology complexes are described as a set of representations, memories, experiences, emotions and sensations; that are transformed into elements that influence behavior and personality . That is, this organized set of various aspects, both physical and psychosocial, conditions the patient to eventually adopt a particular behavior.

The complexes generally attract attention because they present characteristics that are far from the average behavior . That is why a wide diversity of these can be identified, each one of them presents a symptomatology that differentiates them from others. Some consider that it should be formally included in the list of personality disorders.

People who develop some type of complex often have difficulties to lead a normal rhythm of life. Complexes are often associated with problems with self-esteem, stress, anxiety, emotional deficiencies, psychosocial problems, relationship problems and even other types of mental conditions. There are different reasons why a complex can develop.

One of the complexes that are associated with psychosocial problems is the Brummel complex, also known as the obsession with fashion . Next we analyze its characteristics, its causes and examples, finally some tips and treatments are proposed to overcome it.

What is the Brummel complex?

The Brummel complex is a type of psychopathology that conditions behavior in such a way that obsession with fashion develops. That is, it manifests itself in people who live subject to norms related to physical appearance. It could be assumed that they are enslaved, since their only satisfaction is keeping their collection of clothing and accessories up to date.

This is one of the few complexes that have a social component, which determines the psychological state of the patient. They are highly sensitive to what is happening in their environment, so they will try to avoid social rejection by exactly following each new trend. Then they will endeavor to acquire whatever type of clothing and accessories are necessary. Together these objects help create an up-to-date look that fits the fashion of the moment.

Some psychologists consider that the background of this situation is much more serious than it seems. It really is a way of dealing with a lack of self-esteem and the need to avoid facing social rejection. People with Brummel complex use fashion as an excuse to integrate into society. It is the ideal way to interact with other people and avoid facing other situations that instead generate anxiety.

What is the origin of its name? 

The origin of the name of this psychological condition is found in a person in real life. His name was George Brummel who was born in 1778 and died in 1840, he had a very important role in the society of his time. Known as one of the most influential “dandy” in London society , he is historically recognized as one of the most controversial fashion critics.

According to different anecdotes related to him, he was a clear example of elegance and good taste in dressing . He set trends in men’s fashion, but this did not prevent him from also having strong opinions in relation to women’s fashion. He is known as the creator of the classic men’s suit and tie ensemble.

Some considered it as one of the key pieces of culture at the time. Each of his opinions was taken into account and therefore he would become one of the most influential people in English high society .

However, her exquisite taste in clothing and also in other areas of her personal life leads to financial problems. His visit to the most expensive restaurants in the city was common, as well as his home and the clubs where he had fun; they made it spend without limitations.

In part, he was able to sustain this rhythm of life due to his family heritage. His friendship with Jorge IV would also allow him to earn money, which, however, was quickly spent. The friendship between the two would finally end, with it also the fragile economic stability that their social connections provided. Consequently, in the year 1816 with 38 years of age His personal fortune had completely run out, the enormous amount of debt would force him to go into exile in France.

His arrogant personality made him prone to argue and quarrel with other equally influential people, it would make him occupy an unfavorable position to solve his economic situation. He had few friends who were willing to help him in his delicate situation, for two years he would occupy the position of consul in Caen thanks to his friend Lord Alvanley. He receives an annual income, which ends with the abolition of this consulate. He dies at the age of 61 penniless and in prison due to the accumulation of all his debts.

What are their characteristics?

The main characteristic of this complex is observed in how these people adapt their lives to follow the guidelines of fashion. That is to say, those who suffer from it will live subject to scrupulously following trends , this is how they will stop paying attention to other areas of their lives; in order to achieve this goal.

Personality will be defined by this aspect, which is integrated into everyday life as a resource to be able to relate to other people. This complex is usually understood as a means of hiding one’s own feeling of inferiority. The obsession with the physical image, both one’s own and that of others , becomes the main element of the individual’s identity.

Because it is one of the few complexes that have a direct influence on the social aspect, it is important to analyze how the patient’s self-esteem is violated. The insecurity that they try to hide will always depend on the opinion of third parties. The fear of rejection and validation from the people around them will take the place of the main objective in their lives.

Other important features are described below. They are as follows:

  • They follow to the letter each of the rules that define a fashion style. It is used as an essential guide to define your physical image , as well as your personality.
  • They develop a serious emotional problem due to the difficulty of identifying themselves without having external references. That is, they always depend on someone else’s opinion to understand who they are.
  • They may experience financial problems of considerable severity. This happens due to the obsession to acquire items such as clothing and other accessories, they must conform to the type of style they are trying to adopt.
  • They often base their opinions on biases that they have learned from other people. Consequently, they usually do not have their own criteria, applied not only to fashion but also in other areas.
  • They actually try to hide their own insecurity , which is the inferiority complex. They may not be accepted as they are, with respect to their bodies and appearance; but even because of who they are as individuals.

It is important to make a dimension of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder or Dysmorphic Syndrome. There is a high percentage of the patient presenting symptoms associated with this physical and psychological discomfort, characterized by having a distorted body image perspective. It is usually a condition that goes unnoticed and is suffered in secret, patients can combine their obsession with fashion with the performance of various cosmetic and surgical treatments.

Practical examples. How is it identified? 

The behavior of these people attracts attention, as does their physical appearance. These individuals are constantly talking or doing any activity that is related to fashion. They themselves create personal projects where from time to time they make important physical changes , they always try to adapt to the most current norms and trends. Some might consider that the style is exaggerated, due to the large number of pieces used in the same setting.

The classic example is to observe the use of clothing, shoes, accessories and even jewelry that has been selected to suit the newest style. It is also common for these people to have difficulties identifying or presenting themselves, without mentioning their physical appearance. I mean, their lives practically revolve around fashion. 

They constantly accumulate large amounts of items, which are thrown away once they “go out of style.” It is common for them to buy others as replacements, which will eventually have the same destination. Therefore, it is common for them to face financial difficulties due to this lifestyle. They tend to spare no expense, as long as they obtain those material goods that allow them to follow the trends and styles they are trying to copy.

What are your causes? 

The causes for the development of the Brummel complex are usually associated with today’s society and people’s way of thinking. Unfortunately, it has become more common for every citizen to develop fears and insecurities regarding being rejected by others. That is, interacting with other individuals often depends on aspects such as physical appearance, economic power and influence management.

Some people are more prone to others, the use of a physical appearance that suits what a society demands, in part compensates for the strong feeling of inferiority. In some cases it is observed that a part of the patients has experienced situations of social rejection and bullying. Consequently, they will eventually try to find the means or the necessary tactics to avoid facing again in these same situations.

Adopting an aesthetically beautiful physical appearance that also reflects being part of a high social status, are just some of the reasons why these individuals are obsessed with fashion. It becomes an essential part of their lives that partly compensates for emotional deficiencies as well as low self-esteem. It is the ideal excuse to be able to relate to other people and integrate into society.

There is still a clash of opinion as to whether this is a complex that reflects a feeling of inferiority or superiority. Some experts in psychosocial issues affirm that in some cases the development of this complex was really related to a superiority complex. In these particular cases, it is about people who idealize their person and try to become someone else. Therefore they adopt a new identity, which will be more comfortable for them to externalize.

Compared to insecure people, in this case individuals are seen desperate to demonstrate the advantages they have in their favor. Specifically, it is a situation in which they become obsessed with demonstrating their purchasing power by integrating items of considerable value into their style of clothing. 

How is it overcome and what are the most recommended treatments? 

Generally, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat these types of cases This choice is due to the fact that it is a resource that allows the modification of the thought patterns responsible for the development of this behavior. For this it is important that the patient follow the instructions of his therapist, the dynamics created between the two will allow the doctor to successfully identify the origin of his condition.

Unfortunately the prognosis for these cases is to observe a clear improvement after several sessions, these can last for months. Patients who suffer from this complex have difficulties in realizing it by themselves , which is why people around them are the ones who usually alert them about their behavior.

Psychological therapies adapt their techniques and resources to help the patient, the important thing is to prioritize to address the problems that most affect the patient. You may also need to learn how to make more appropriate use of your personal finances, do not forget that this is another problem associated with this complex.

Anxiolytics or antidepressants are often used in the most severe cases, where symptoms associated with depression and impaired self-esteem are observed. Likewise, the patient must learn to use relaxation techniques, perseverance in their practice will eventually result in a calmer mental state; decreasing anxiety.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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