Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition where individuals have a distorted view of their physical appearance, leading them to obsess over perceived flaws or defects. Those with BDD spend hours each day checking, grooming, or hiding their perceived imperfections, causing significant anxiety and distress.

The Prevalence of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

BDD affects approximately 1% of the general population, and it is more prevalent among individuals with a history of anxiety or depressive disorders.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms

The hallmark symptom of BDD is an intense preoccupation with a perceived flaw or imperfection that is either minor or entirely imagined. Individuals with BDD may experience several symptoms, including:

  • Obsessive thoughts: Individuals with BDD spend hours each day thinking about their perceived flaws, often to the point where it interferes with their daily activities.
  • Compulsive behaviors: To alleviate their anxiety, those with BDD may engage in repetitive behaviors such as checking themselves in mirrors or picking at their skin. This is done to assess, hide or improve the “flaw”.
  • Social withdrawal: The anxiety and low self-esteem caused by BDD may lead individuals to withdraw from social situations or to avoid certain activities.
  • Depression and anxiety: Individuals with BDD often experience depression and anxiety due to their preoccupation with their perceived flaws and their inability to stop thinking about them.
  • Physical Symptoms: Picking at the skin or other behaviors that the person does to improve the imperfection can cause physical symptoms over time, e.g., the skin becomes infected or the acne worsens.

Commonly Obsessed Areas in BDD

Individuals with BDD may obsess over any part of their body, though some areas are more commonly the focus of the obsession:

  • Skin: Those with BDD may worry excessively about the appearance of their skin, such as acne, redness, or wrinkles.
  • Hair: Concerns over hair thickness, texture, or loss can be a source of obsession.
  • Nose: Disliking the shape, size, or symmetry of one’s nose is a common obsession found in BDD.
  • Facial features: Individuals may obsess over the size, shape, or symmetry of their eyes, lips or jaw among other facial features.
  • Muscle tone: Those with BDD may worry excessively about their muscle tone, believing that they are too small or not toned enough.

BDD Diagnosis

BDD is diagnosed by a trained healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. A diagnosis will typically involve an assessment of symptoms and a review of the patient’s medical history. Individuals who exhibit symptoms of BDD are often evaluated for other psychological disorders as well, such as depression or anxiety.

BDD Treatment Options

There are several forms of treatment available for individuals with BDD, which may include:

  • Counselling or psychotherapy: One-on-one therapy can help teach individuals with BDD to identify and challenge negative thoughts related to their appearance.
  • Medications: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be helpful in reducing obsessive thoughts and behaviors associated with BDD.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT addresses the negative, obsessive thought patterns associated with BDD by helping individuals to develop a more positive self-image.
  • Support groups: Some people with BDD may benefit from peer support groups where they can share their experiences and learn from others.


Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition that can cause significant anxiety and distress. It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of BDD. With appropriate treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms of BDD and live a healthy, fulfilling life.


What are the symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder experience preoccupation and distress over perceived defects or flaws in their appearance that are not noticeable to others or appear minor to outside observers. This may lead to repetitive or compulsive behaviors, including checking, comparing, avoiding or seeking reassurance, and excessive grooming or cosmetic procedures.

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder diagnosed?

A mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive medical and psychological evaluation to diagnose Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The evaluation may include questions about medical history, symptoms, and their impact on daily life, as well as a physical exam to rule out other medical conditions. A mental health professional may also use standardized diagnostic criteria to assess if the person meets the diagnostic criteria for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

What treatments are available for Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Treatment options for Body Dysmorphic Disorder may include a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups. Antidepressant medication may be prescribed to address underlying anxiety or depression, while cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals learn to manage distorted thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Support groups can also provide additional emotional support and a safe space to discuss challenges and share experiences. It is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


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