What is body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental condition in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance, a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable. But you may seem so ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations. When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day. Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life.
How common is body dysmorphic disorder?
This disorder can affect both men and women. Surveys have put BDD at about 2% of the population. It is more common in adolescents and young people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder?
- The common symptoms ofbody dysmorphic disorder are:
- Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
- Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
- Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
- Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or CLOTHES
- Constantly comparing your appearance with others
- Always seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
- Having perfectionist tendencies
- Seeking frequent COSMETIC procedures with little satisfaction
- Avoiding social situations
- Being so preoccupied with appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, school or other areas of functioning
When should I see my doctor?
Shame and embarrassment about your appearance may keep you from seeking treatment for body dysmorphic disorder. But if you have any signs or symptoms, see your health care provider or a mental health professional.
Body dysmorphic disorder usually doesn’t get better on its own, and if untreated, it may get worse over time, leading to severe depression, anxiety and extensive medical bills, and may lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
What causes body dysmorphic disorder?
It’s not known exactly what the cause of body dysmorphic disorder is. Like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphic disorder may result from a combination of causes, such as:
- Brain differences. Abnormalities in brain structure or neurochemistry may play a role in causing body dysmorphic disorder.
- Genes. Some studies show that body dysmorphic disorder is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Environment. Your environment, life experiences and culture may contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, especially if they involve negative social evaluations about your body or self-image, or even childhood neglect or abuse.
What increases my risk for body dysmorphic disorder?
There are many risk factors for health condition, such as:
- Having blood relatives with body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Negative life experiences, such as childhood teasing and trauma
- Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism
- Societal pressure or expectations of beauty
- Having another psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is body dysmorphic disorder diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have this disorder, a mental physical examination will be performed.
Diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder is typically based on:
- A psychological evaluation that assesses risk factors and thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to negative self-image
- Personal, social, family and medical history
- Symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association
How is body dysmorphic disorder treated?
Some recommended treatment options may include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy for body dysmorphic disorder focuses on:
- Helping you learn how negative thoughts, emotional reactions and behaviors maintain problems over time
- Challenging automatic negative thoughts about your body image and learning a more flexible and realistic way of thinking
- Learning alternate ways to handle urges or rituals to help reduce mirror checking or reassurance seeking
- Teaching you other behaviors to improve your mental health
- You and your therapist can talk about your goals for therapy and develop a personalized treatment plan to learn and strengthen coping skills.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Because body dysmorphic disorder is thought to be caused in part by problems related to the brain chemical serotonin, SSRIs may be prescribed. SSRIs appear to be more effective for body dysmorphic disorder than other antidepressants and may help control your obsessions and repetitive behaviors.
- Other medications. In some cases, you may benefit from taking other medications in addition to an SSRI, depending on your symptoms.
- In some cases, your body dysmorphic disorder symptoms may be so severe that you require psychiatric hospitalization. This is generally recommended only when you aren’t able to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities or when you’re in immediate danger of harming yourself.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage body dysmorphic disorder?
- Stick to your treatment plan. Don’t skip therapy sessions, even if you don’t feel like going. Even if you’re feeling well, resist any temptation to skip your medications. If you stop, symptoms may come back. You could also experience withdrawal-like symptoms from stopping a medication too suddenly.
- Learn about your disorder. Education about body dysmorphic disorder can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan.
- Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger your symptoms. Make a plan so you know what to do if symptoms return. Contact your doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in symptoms or how you feel.
- Practice learned strategies. At home, practice the skills you learn during therapy so they become stronger habits.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Body dysmorphic disorder. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/manage/ptc-20201276 . Accessed January 10, 2017.
Body dysmorphic disorder. https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd . Accessed January 10, 2017.
Body dysmorphic disorder. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_dysmorphic_disorder . Accessed January 10, 2017.
Review Date: July 24, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019