Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition that causes a person to obsess over perceived flaws in their appearance. This disorder affects an estimated 2 percent of the population, and it can have a devastating impact on their daily life. If someone you love is struggling with BDD, it can be difficult to understand their condition and offer support. This article will provide you with an overview of body dysmorphic disorder and suggest ways to provide support to your loved one.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

BDD is a mental health condition characterized by an intensifying preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance. These real or imagined flaws can focus on any part of the body but are most often centered on the skin, face, and hair. Individuals with BDD experience significant distress regarding the perceived flaw, leading them to spend a lot of time trying to conceal, check or fix it. However, their efforts offer only temporary relief and can even exacerbate their anxiety symptoms.

What Causes BDD?

There is no known single cause for BDD. However, studies have suggested that it may be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors such as childhood trauma, cultural beauty standards, personality traits, and brain chemistry. Research has also shown that BDD is more common among people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating disorders.

Recognizing the Symptoms of BDD

Helping your loved one with BDD requires being able to recognize the symptoms of the disorder. Some common signs of BDD include:

  • Preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws in appearance that others cannot see or only notice minimally
  • Compulsive behavior like checking mirrors or avoiding social interactions
  • Spending a significant amount of time concealing or trying to fix the perceived flaw
  • Repeated cosmetic enhancements, dermatologist visits or plastic surgeries that have little to no effect
  • Experiencing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning

How to Help a Loved One with BDD

If you suspect that your loved one is experiencing BDD, you can show support by doing the following:

  • Learn about the disorder: Seeking knowledge about BDD can provide you with a better understanding of the condition, the triggers, and possible treatment options.
  • Be patient and non-judgmental: Do not pass judgment or offer simple solutions. Instead, be patient, empathetic, and actively listen to your loved one’s concerns.
  • Offer reassurance: Provide genuine reassurances that you recognize their struggle and support them.
  • Encourage professional help: BDD is best addressed through professional help from a psychiatrist or qualified mental health provider specializing in the disorder. Help your loved one find a qualified provider and encourage them to seek their help
  • Ask how you can personally help them: Your loved one may find it easier to let you know how best you can help them cope with their condition. Offer support by asking them how you can help.

Final Thoughts

Body dysmorphic disorder is a challenging condition that can affect different aspects of someone’s life. Being patient, empathetic, and willing to listen can make a world of difference for your loved one’s well-being. Although the condition may not yet have a cure, treatment offers hope for a better quality of life. Supporting your loved one as they work towards recovery for BDD is a sign of love and commitment.


FAQs: When Your Loved One Has Body Dysmorphic Disorder

1. What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

BDD is a mental health disorder that causes a person to obsess over perceived flaws or imperfections in their appearance. These obsessions can cause significant distress and can impact daily functioning. BDD is sometimes referred to as “imagined ugliness” because the perceived flaws are often not noticeable to others.

2. How can I support someone with BDD?

It can be challenging to support someone with BDD as they may not believe that they have a problem or may feel ashamed and embarrassed about their perceived flaws. It’s important to be patient and understanding and encourage your loved one to seek professional help. You can also offer to attend therapy or support group sessions with them and help them challenge their negative thoughts.

3. What treatments are available for BDD?

There are several treatments available for BDD, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, and support groups. CBT is often the first-line treatment for BDD and can help a person challenge their negative thoughts and behaviors related to their appearance. Anti-depressant medications may also be prescribed to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression that often accompany BDD. It’s important to note that treatment can be a lengthy process and may require ongoing support.


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2. Greenberg, J. L., Reuman, L., & McCool, C. (2020). The impact of body dysmorphic disorder on romantic relationships: A review of theory and empirical research. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(6), 2209-2227. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-020-01687-0

3. Phillips, K. A., Wilhelm, S., Koran, L. M., Didie, E. R., Fallon, B. A., & Feusner, J. (2013). Body dysmorphic disorder: Some key issues for DSM-V. Depression and Anxiety, 30(6), 484-496. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/da.22064