Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder, also known as BDD, dysmorphic syndrome, body dysmorphia or dysmorphophobia is classified as an illness associated with the brain and can be termed as a somatoform disorder. This type of disorder is characterized by an excessively self-awareness of body image and overall physical features.

When you suffer from this disorder you may excessively complain about one or more body-related defects. You may also continuously complain about your image and general appearance. This can lead to the development of psychological distress and impaired social and/or occupational functioning. Body dysmorphic disorder can co-exist with emotional depression as well as anxiety. The effects of this disorder may include social isolation and social withdrawal.  Body dysmorphic disorder affects approximately 2% of the population.


Body dysmorphic disorder has been defined as a somatoform disorder, which is marked by the preoccupation with non-existent or trivial defects in your general appearance. These perceived defects can cause such distress that you’re occupational and/or social functioning becomes impaired.

It is important to note that BDD symptoms must not be confused with other disorders such as rapid and/or excessive weight gain. In addition, eating disorders are completely different from BDD.

In many cases, your perceived defect of the body is used to determine the nature of BDD, aided by the different symptoms and behaviors that you display. For instance, if you have BDD you may use excessive amount of makeup to cover up a small blemish. In addition, if you have Body dysmorphic disorder, you may only display a few behaviors and symptoms.

Possible Causes

While the cause of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) varies depending on the individual, environmental, biological and psychological factors appear to play a significant role in its development and progression. In addition, various events and episodes such as emotional neglect, feelings of a loss of control and/or abuse can later lead to the development of this disorder.


According to DSM-IV, you must fulfill the following criteria in order to be diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder:

  • A preoccupation with a slight defect which may be imagined or actually present in your appearance. If the defect is present, the preoccupation is extremely excessive.
  • A preoccupation that causes a large amount of distress to you and also causes social and occupational impairments.
  • A preoccupation that is not caused by any other mental disorder such as anorexia nervosa or excessive weight gain.


Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Low self-esteem and self-confidence are common symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder.

  1. Obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors
  2. Thoughts and beliefs that are considered delusional
  3. Anxiety and panic attacks
  4. Depressive disorder symptoms
  5. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence
  6. Suicidal thoughts and ideas
  7. An avoidant personality – You tend to avoid interactions with friends and family members
  8. Social isolation or social phobia
  9. Family withdrawal
  10. Increased self-consciousness
  11. Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  12. Perfectionism
  13. Repetitive behaviors such as the continuous application of cosmetic agents and other products in order to conceal perceived skin defects
  14. Dependent personality
  15. Feelings of shame

The onset or the manifestations of symptoms can occur during adolescence or early adulthood. During the onset of symptoms, you enter a phase of self-criticism in regards to your general appearance and image. Some of the most prominent symptoms of this disorder are: social phobia, psychological depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.


Cognitive behavior therapy has proven most effective in treating the condition. Psychotherapy is usually successful, but in some cases, prescribed medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors need to be taken to manage the disorder. A combination of psychotherapy along with medications is usually successful in treating the condition. To treat this disorder effectively, you should be observed carefully for the presence of any other disorders.


Phillips, K. A. (2004). Body dysmorphic disorder: Recognizing and treating imagined ugliness. World Psychiatry. Retrieved from

American Psychiatric Association. (2001). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.


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