Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.   -William James

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

All of us experience a dissatisfaction with our appearance from time-to-time. However, if someone is continually concerned about or critical of how they look, or continually distressed about their looks, it may be time to speak to a therapist about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Body Dysmorphia, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, BDD

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also referred to as BDD or Body Dysmorphia, is a mental health condition in which a person is preoccupied with at least one perceived defect or flaw in their physical appearance, which may not be observable to others, or appears only slight. The preoccupation is both persistent and intrusive, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.

BDD is related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in that a person’s preoccupation with the defect (obsession) often leads to ritualistic behaviors (compulsion), such as mirror checking, hair pulling or skin picking. The person with BDD eventually becomes so obsessed with the defect that his or her social, work, and home functioning suffers.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Extreme preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Intense belief that a defect in your appearance exists that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others perceive your appearance in a negative way
  • Feeling self-conscious and not wanting to go out in public, or feeling anxious when around other people
  • Engaging in frequent and ritualistic behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw
  • Always seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Being so preoccupied with appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, school or other areas of functioning
  • Repeatedly consulting with medical specialists, such as plastic surgeons or dermatologists, to find ways to improve his or her appearance

Risk Factors for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The exact cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with BDD or OCD can increase the likelihood that a person will develop BDD.
  • Environment / Experiences: Trauma and stressful events, may contribute to BDD. BDD also may become worse during periods of stress.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders. A person who has depression or other anxiety disorders may be more prone to BDD.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating BDD. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of BDD, including:

Medication does not cure BDD but can help relieve the symptoms. The types of medications used to treat the symptoms of BDD include:

  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Antidepressants

Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Fears »