Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Posted October 25, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition. A person with BDD is consumed with thoughts about an imagined or very slight defect in their body. The obsession interferes with their work, school, home and social life. Treatment may include psychotherapy and medication.
What is body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition.
A person with body dysmorphic disorder becomes very anxious about a physical defect.
Often, they’re imagining the defect, or it’s so minor that others can’t see it.
These feelings consume the person’s thoughts, affecting their social activities and job.
What causes body dysmorphic disorder?
The exact cause of body dysmorphic disorder is not known.
One theory suggests that there are problems with certain neurotransmitters (chemicals that help nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other).
Body dysmorphic disorder often occurs in people with other mental health disorders, such as major depression and anxiety, which helps support this theory.
Other factors that might influence the development of or trigger body dysmorphic disorder include:
Experience of traumatic events or emotional conflict during childhood.
Parents and others who were critical of the person’s appearance.
Pressure from peers and a society that equates physical appearance with beauty and value.
What are the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder?
People with body dysmorphic disorder have inaccurate views of themselves.
This can cause them to avoid others, or lead them to harmful behaviors or to repeated surgeries to correct problems they think they have.
Some of the warning signs that a person may have body dysmorphic disorder include the following:
Preoccupation with one or more defects or flaws in physical appearance that cannot be seen by others, or that appear slight to others.
Engaging in repetitive and time-consuming behaviors, such as looking in a mirror, picking at the skin, and trying to hide or cover up the defect.
Constantly asking for reassurance that the defect is not visible or too obvious.
Having problems at work or school or in relationships because the person cannot stop focusing on the defect.
Feeling self-conscious and not wanting to go out in public, or feeling anxious when around other people.
Repeatedly consulting with medical specialists, such as plastic surgeons or dermatologists, to find ways to improve his or her appearance.
How is body dysmorphic disorder diagnosed?
A healthcare provider will ask about personal and family medical history and do a physical exam.
If the provider suspects body dysmorphic disorder, they may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
These mental health professionals evaluate the person’s attitude, behavior and symptoms. A provider will often diagnose body dysmorphic disorder when a person:
Is preoccupied with a flaw or flaws in their appearance.
Does repetitive actions (grooming, checking appearance in a mirror) because of their concern about their appearance.
Can’t function at work or home because they are so worried about how they look.
What are treatments for body dysmorphic disorder?
Body dysmorphic disorder treatment often includes a combination of:
Psychotherapy (or cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT): Individual counseling focuses on changing a person’s thinking (cognition) and behavior. Through treatment, they correct their thinking about the defect and lessen their compulsive actions.
Exposure and response prevention: ERP uses thoughts and real-life situations to prove to the person that their view of themselves is not accurate.
Medication: Antidepressant medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may help treat body dysmorphic disorder.
Group/family therapy: Family support is key to successful treatment. Family members learn to understand body dysmorphic disorder and recognize the signs and symptoms.