top of page

Body dysmorphic disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in physical appearance that are not observable or are very slight to others. This preoccupation causes significant distress and can lead to impaired daily functioning, social isolation, and, in severe cases, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. BDD is a serious condition that requires specialized treatment.



Preoccupation with Appearance: A persistent and intense focus on one or more perceived flaws in physical appearance that others often do not notice or view as minor.
Frequent Mirror Checking or Avoidance: Individuals with BDD may spend an excessive amount of time looking in the mirror or, conversely, avoid mirrors altogether.
Excessive Grooming or Camouflaging Behaviours: Spending a lot of time trying to hide or change the perceived flaws through grooming, makeup, clothing, or even surgical procedures.
Comparing Appearance to Others: Constantly comparing one's appearance to others and seeking reassurance about their perceived flaws.
Avoidance of Social Situations: A tendency to avoid social situations or activities due to fear of being judged or ridiculed because of their appearance.
Significant Distress or Impairment: The preoccupation with appearance causes significant distress and can interfere with daily functioning, relationships, and work or school performance.
Belief That Others Judge Them Harshly: Individuals with BDD often believe that others are intensely focused on their perceived flaws and judge them negatively because of them.
Seeking Reassurance: Frequently seeking reassurance from others about their appearance, which may provide temporary relief but does not alleviate the underlying distress.
Depression and Anxiety: Many individuals with BDD also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, often related to their appearance concerns.


The exact cause of BDD is not fully understood, but it is likely to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some potential contributing factors include:
Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition, as BDD can run in families.
Neurobiological Factors: Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to body image processing, may be involved.
Psychological Factors: Low self-esteem, perfectionism, and a tendency toward anxiety or depression may contribute.
Sociocultural Influences: Cultural emphasis on physical appearance and beauty standards may play a role in the development of BDD.


A diagnosis of BDD is typically made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. The diagnosis is based on a thorough assessment that may include:
Clinical Interview: The mental health professional will conduct a detailed interview to gather information about the individual's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to their appearance.
Diagnostic Criteria: The diagnosis of BDD is based on specific criteria outlined in diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition).
Rule Out Other Conditions: The professional will ensure that the symptoms are not better explained by another mental health condition or medical issue.


Treatment for BDD typically involves a combination of therapies and, in some cases, medication:
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is the most effective form of treatment for BDD. It helps individuals identify and challenge distorted thoughts and behaviours related to their appearance.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): A specific form of CBT that involves gradually confronting feared situations or avoiding compulsive behaviours.
Medication: In some cases, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), a type of antidepressant, may be prescribed to help manage symptoms.
Support Groups: Participating in support groups can provide individuals with a sense of community and understanding from others who are dealing with similar challenges.
Psychoeducation: Learning about BDD and understanding its nature can be empowering for individuals seeking treatment.
It's important to note that treatment plans are highly individualized, and what works for one person may not work for another. A mental health professional will work closely with the individual to develop a tailored approach to their specific needs and circumstances. Early intervention and consistent support are crucial for managing BDD and promoting recovery.

bottom of page