Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

What is BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)?

A mental health condition that usually starts in your teenage years and affects both men and women, BDD is a condition that causes people to be obsessed about perceived flaws in their appearance, focusing on specific areas rather than the whole body.  They will see faults and defects that often don’t exist or are minor and believe that they are unattractive or ugly.  BDD is a long term disorder and it can have a negative affect on their school, work or social life causing them anxiety in social situations.


There is no known single cause for developing body dysmorphic disorder, but there are several things believed to be factors in its development. 

It’s believed that problems with certain areas of the brain that process information regarding how we perceive our appearance can affect this, as can abnormal serotonin levels.

Having parents or siblings who were constantly criticising your appearance as well as peer pressure and societies obsession with how people look can also have an impact.

BDD often occurs in people who have existing mental health conditions such as low self-esteem, anxiety and depression or have suffered traumatic events in childhood.

Having a family history of BDD or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can increase your risk of developing it.


·      Avoiding social situations as they make you feel anxious, as you believe people are staring at your perceived defect

·      Having cosmetic procedures but never being satisfied with the results

·      Seeking reassurance from others about your appearance

·      Being preoccupied with perceived flaws and trying to hide them

·      Constantly comparing your appearance to other peoples

·      Repeatedly touching or measuring the perceived defect

·      Believing that you have a physical defect that makes you ugly or disfigured

·      Having difficulty controlling behaviours that you use to control your perceived flaws, such as skin picking grooming or checking yourself in mirrors.


Associated Conditions or Risks

Left untreated BDD can lead to other conditions such as:

·      Social isolation

·      Infections from skin picking

·      Complications from cosmetic surgeries

·      Anxiety

·      Depression

·      Low self-esteem

·      Suicidal thoughts

·      OCD

·      Substance misuse

·      Eating disorders


Professional Help

People with BDD can often feel too embarrassed or ashamed to see their doctor and ask for help about the way they are feeling, but BDD will not go away without treatment.  If you feel able, confide in someone you trust who will help you see the benefits of seeing your doctor and seeking help. 

They can offer several options depending on the severity of your BDD, these will include both medication and therapy.  Antidepressants such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are often used in cases of BDD. Psychotherapy can be used in combination with medication or on it’s own if you have had problems or suffered side effects with medication you have been prescribed.

Psychotherapy can include family therapy which can prove beneficial as it helps family members to understand how you are feeling and to help them recognise the symptoms of BDD.  CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is used to help patients recognise and change their negative thoughts and behaviours.  It will help you to learn what triggers your symptoms and learn ways to deal with this, reducing your anxiety and obsessive thinking and behaviours.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.

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