The article was last updated by Marcus Wong on February 9, 2024.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a complex psychological condition that affects how individuals perceive their own appearance. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of BDD. We will also discuss how BDD differs from other disorders such as OCD and eating disorders, and provide tips on how to help a loved one with BDD and cope with the condition.

So, let’s dive into the world of BDD and unravel its intricacies in psychology.

Key Takeaways:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance.
  • BDD can have various causes, including biological, psychological, and social factors.
  • Treatment for BDD may include medication, therapy, and support groups, and it’s important to seek professional help in managing the disorder.
  • What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by obsessive thoughts about a perceived flaw in one’s physical appearance.

    Individuals with BDD often exhibit extreme distress and anxiety related to their appearance, leading them to frequently seek reassurance or undergo cosmetic procedures to improve their perceived flaw. These obsessions and compulsions can significantly impact daily functioning, relationships, and overall quality of life. Common symptoms include constantly checking the perceived flaw in mirrors, comparing oneself to others, and avoiding social situations out of fear of being judged. While treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective, early intervention is crucial to managing BDD and improving the individual’s well-being.

    What Are The Symptoms Of BDD?

    The symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) often manifest through behaviors like excessive mirror checking, constant grooming, and seeking reassurance about one’s appearance.

    One of the key symptoms of BDD is mirror avoidance, where individuals go to great lengths to avoid seeing their reflections due to intense negative self-perception.

    This avoidance behavior can lead to social withdrawal, impacting their relationships and daily activities. Those affected by BDD often experience debilitating anxiety and depression, contributing to a diminished quality of life. Societal pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and perfectionism are risk factors that can exacerbate the development of BDD, making it crucial to address these underlying issues in therapy or treatment.

    What Causes BDD?

    The causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can be attributed to a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the development of this mental health condition.

    Genetic tendencies play a significant role in predisposing individuals to BDD, where abnormal brain function may exacerbate the symptoms of distorted self-image and dissatisfaction with physical appearance.

    Along with genetic influences, societal standards and pressures can also fuel the onset of BDD, creating an environment where individuals feel compelled to meet unrealistic beauty ideals.

    Fluctuating serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, have been linked to the development and severity of BDD symptoms, highlighting the intricate interplay between biological and psychological factors.

    Biological Factors

    Biological factors play a significant role in Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), with abnormalities in brain function and serotonin levels often associated with the condition.

    Research suggests that individuals with BDD may have altered activity in the brain regions responsible for processing visual information and emotions, contributing to their skewed self-perception.

    Genetic predispositions can also play a role, with certain genes potentially increasing susceptibility to developing BDD.

    This complex interplay of biological factors can lead to a range of complications, from social withdrawal to depression and anxiety, often stemming from the individual’s low self-esteem and distorted body image.

    Psychological Factors

    Psychological factors such as low self-esteem and obsessive thoughts contribute significantly to the development and perpetuation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

    Individuals with BDD often experience cognitive distortions, where their perception of their appearance is skewed, leading to extreme dissatisfaction and preoccupation with perceived flaws.

    • These negative beliefs can manifest as compulsions – repetitive behaviors such as checking mirrors frequently or seeking reassurance, which only temporarily alleviate their distress.
    • This constant cycle of intrusive thoughts and compulsions can also trigger intense anxiety disorders, further reinforcing the distorted self-image perpetuated by BDD.

    Social Factors

    Social factors, including societal pressures and family history, can influence the development and exacerbation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in individuals.

    The societal standards that dictate what is considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘perfect’ can significantly impact narcissistic tendencies within individuals, fueling their dissatisfaction with their appearance. Familial influences play a crucial role in shaping one’s self-image and perceptions of beauty. Growing up in an environment where criticism and unrealistic ideals prevail can contribute to the manifestation of BDD.

    These cultural aspects often promote comparison and competition, leading individuals down a path of social isolation as they feel inadequate and unworthy in the eyes of society. The pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards can result in obsessive behaviors and a distorted view of one’s body, further perpetuating the cycle of BDD.

    How Is BDD Diagnosed?

    Diagnosing Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) involves a comprehensive assessment of symptoms and adherence to specific diagnostic criteria that differentiate it from other mental health conditions.

    One crucial aspect of diagnosing BDD is evaluating the presence of obsessions and compulsions related to perceived defects in physical appearance. Individuals with BDD often experience intrusive thoughts about these perceived flaws, leading to significant distress and impaired functioning in daily life. The assessment process also involves examining the individual’s insight into their concerns, as those with BDD typically have poor insight, believing their flaws are highly noticeable to others despite reassurance.

    How Is BDD Treated?

    Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) often involves a combination of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications like serotonin reuptake inhibitors to address the underlying symptoms and challenges associated with the condition.

    Additionally, exposure therapy and response prevention are effective interventions for individuals struggling with BDD. Exposure therapy helps individuals gradually confront their fears and delusional beliefs about their appearance, while response prevention focuses on resisting compulsive behaviors related to appearance concerns. Research also indicates that the gender ratio in BDD is approximately equal, with both men and women affected by this condition.


    Medications, particularly antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are prescribed to individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) to manage symptoms and address potential complications associated with the condition.

    These medications play a crucial role in regulating serotonin levels in the brain, which is believed to impact mood, emotions, and thoughts in individuals with BDD. By targeting serotonin, these medications can help alleviate symptoms like obsessive thoughts about perceived flaws in one’s appearance, reducing the distress and anxiety experienced by those with BDD.

    Along with managing the primary symptoms of BDD, these medications can also be effective in addressing co-occurring conditions such as depression, which commonly accompany BDD. Depression can significantly affect the quality of life of individuals with BDD, leading to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and even suicidal thoughts.


    Therapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, are crucial components of treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) as they help individuals challenge maladaptive beliefs and behaviors associated with the condition.

    Cognitive restructuring within therapy involves identifying and modifying self-defeating thoughts that fuel BDD symptoms, aiding individuals in developing a more balanced perspective of their appearance.

    Through behavioral experiments, patients engage in activities that contradict their distorted beliefs, gradually building confidence and reducing anxiety.

    Therapy often incorporates values-based work, where individuals explore what truly matters to them beyond physical appearance, fostering self-acceptance and emotional well-being.

    Support Groups

    Support groups and resources play a vital role in helping withdividuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) by providing a platform for shared experiences, coping strategies, and access to relevant articles and information.

    Peer support within these groups can be incredibly beneficial, as individuals can relate to one another’s struggles with skin dysmorphia and form connections based on empathy and understanding.

    Participating in support groups can help individuals develop coping skills and resilience in dealing with the challenges associated with BDD. Research has shown that group therapy can be as effective as individual therapy in managing body image concerns.

    These groups create a safe space for individuals to express themselves, share resources, and even engage in activities that promote self-care and self-acceptance. Imagine it as a community coming together to heal and grow, like characters in a heartwarming Disney film.

    How Is BDD Different From Other Disorders?

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is distinct from other disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and body image issues due to its focus on perceived physical flaws and associated compulsive behaviors.

    One key difference between BDD and OCD is the primary focus of the obsessions; while OCD involves intrusive thoughts and irrational fears that may or may not relate to physical appearance, BDD is centered around the individual’s dissatisfaction with their perceived flaws. This distinction is crucial in understanding the diagnostic criteria for each disorder.

    In terms of treatment approaches, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used for both BDD and OCD, focusing on challenging irrational beliefs and reducing compulsive behaviors. Individuals with BDD may benefit more from exposure therapy specifically tailored to their body image concerns.

    BDD vs OCD

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) differs from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in that BDD focuses on perceived physical flaws while OCD involves repetitive rituals and intrusive thoughts unrelated to appearance.

    While individuals with BDD often obsess over minor or nonexistent flaws in their appearance, those with OCD experience obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors, such as counting, checking, or cleaning. These rituals are driven by the need to alleviate anxiety caused by the obsessions. In contrast, individuals with BDD may engage in excessive grooming, constantly checking their appearance, or seeking reassurance about their perceived flaws. Both disorders can significantly impact daily functioning, but the focus of BDD on physical appearance sets it apart from the more diverse obsessions of OCD.

    BDD vs Eating Disorders

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) differs from eating disorders in that BDD revolves around a distorted body image perception and specific obsessions with physical appearance, while eating disorders involve disordered eating behaviors and body weight concerns.

    Individuals with BDD can intensely fixate on perceived flaws, often resorting to cosmetic surgery as a means to alleviate distress. This drive for perfection can lead to a cycle of dissatisfaction and further obsession.

    On the other hand, individuals with eating disorders may engage in restrictive diets or purging behaviors to control body weight, with self-worth tied closely to physical appearance.

    BDD can result in fixation on one or more body parts, viewing them as defective and in need of correction through cosmetic procedures, which can be considered as non-therapeutic mutilation in cases where there is no actual physical abnormality.

    In contrast, eating disorders are more focused on food intake, body weight, and shape, with individuals often striving for an unattainable body ideal perpetuated by societal standards.

    BDD vs Body Image Issues

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) contrasts with general body image issues by involving extreme preoccupation with a perceived defect, often leading to distress, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors.

    Unlike common body image concerns that may involve fleeting insecurities or dissatisfaction with certain aspects of one’s physical appearance, BDD manifests as an all-consuming obsession with perceived flaws, which can distort one’s self-image and overall well-being. Those with BDD often engage in repetitive behaviors such as compulsive grooming, seeking reassurance, or avoiding social situations due to intense feelings of shame and embarrassment.

    How Can Someone Help A Loved One With BDD?

    Supporting a loved one with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) involves providing emotional support, encouraging professional help-seeking, and promoting healthy coping skills to manage symptoms and challenges associated with the condition.

    Effective communication plays a crucial role in fostering understanding and trust with someone experiencing BDD. Empathy is key in showing genuine care and concern towards their struggles. By actively listening and validating their feelings, you create a safe space for them to open up about their emotions and fears.

    In the context of the pandemic effects, it’s important to acknowledge the additional stressors and triggers that individuals with BDD may face. Be mindful of the impact of isolation, uncertainty, and disruptions to routines on their mental well-being.

    How Can Someone Cope With BDD?

    Coping with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) involves engaging in self-care practices, seeking therapy, and developing healthy coping mechanisms to manage negative thoughts, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors related to appearance concerns.

    One effective strategy for managing BDD involves incorporating mindfulness techniques into daily life. Mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing them to observe and detach from negative self-perceptions. Additionally, cognitive restructuring can be beneficial in challenging distorted beliefs about one’s appearance and replacing them with more realistic and positive thoughts. Embracing these techniques can provide individuals with tools to navigate the complexities of social anxiety and cultural differences that may exacerbate BDD symptoms.

    Self-care Practices

    Self-care practices for individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can include activities such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and grooming habits to alleviate distress and manage symptoms associated with the condition.

    Engaging in regular physical exercise is also crucial for individuals dealing with BDD, as it not only benefits the body but also helps in reducing obsessive thoughts by promoting endorphin release. Building a support network of understanding friends and family members can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation that may exacerbate symptoms like agoraphobia. Incorporating positive affirmations and self-compassion practices into daily routines can help foster better self-esteem and self-acceptance.

    Seeking Professional Help

    Seeking professional help from a mental health clinician can be beneficial for individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) as it enables access to therapy, medication, and specialized interventions tailored to address the challenges associated with the disorder.

    Therapy options such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have shown effectiveness in helping individuals challenge and change their distorted beliefs about appearance in BDD.

    1. Diagnosis criteria for BDD include preoccupation with perceived flaws, repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to appearance concerns.

    Medication management, often involving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be prescribed by psychiatrists to help alleviate symptoms of this psychiatric disorder.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in Psychology?

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder characterized by a preoccupation with one’s perceived flaws or defects in physical appearance. It falls under the category of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

    How common is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

    BDD affects approximately 1-2% of the general population and is equally prevalent among males and females. However, it is more commonly reported among individuals with a history of bullying, teasing, or trauma related to their appearance.

    What are the symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

    Some common symptoms of BDD include excessive preoccupation with physical appearance, frequent checking of appearance in mirrors or avoiding mirrors altogether, comparing one’s appearance to others, seeking reassurance about one’s appearance, and engaging in compulsive behaviors such as excessive grooming or cosmetic procedures.

    How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) diagnosed?

    BDD is typically diagnosed by a mental health professional through a comprehensive evaluation that includes assessing the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to body image, as well as ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms.

    What are the potential causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

    The exact cause of BDD is unknown, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may contribute to its development. People with a family history of BDD or other mental health disorders may be at a higher risk.

    Can Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) be treated?

    Yes, BDD can be effectively treated with a combination of therapy, medication, and support. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help individuals challenge and change their negative thoughts and behaviors related to their appearance. Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be helpful in managing symptoms. Seeking support from loved ones and joining support groups can also aid in the recovery process.

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