Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Do you tend to worry a lot about how you look and cannot stop thinking about your physical appearance? Chances are that you are having a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Read and find out all about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this unique behavioral disease.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Definition

It is a mental disorder characterized by extreme concern about one’s physical appearance. A person suffering from this condition tends to spend a lot of time worrying about their looks. He or she focuses excessively on a particular physical defect, which borders on obsession.

The disease generally originates during the adolescent years. It affects men and women equally.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Synonyms

The disease is also known by various other names, like:

Picture of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Picture 1 – Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  • Dysmorphic Syndrome
  • Body Dysmorphia
  • Dysmorphophobia

It is abbreviated as BDD.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder ICD9 Code

The ICD9 Code for this condition is 300.7.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms

The primary signs and symptoms of this mental ailment include:

  • Extreme obsession with physical appearance
  • Excessive fussing about a specific physical defect
  • Excessive grooming, such as plucking of hair
  • Spending long hours observing oneself in the mirror or avoiding looking at the mirror altogether
  • Skin picking
  • Avoiding social events
  • Avoiding being photographed
  • Comparing own appearance with that of others
  • Wearing extra clothing or applying too much makeup to conceal perceived flaws
  • Frequent use of cosmetics, with little mental satisfaction
  • Suspecting others of having negative impression about their physical appearance

Sufferers tend to nitpick and fuss about perceived flaws in any part of their body. The regions of the body that patients are commonly overcritical of include:

  • Hair
  • Complexion
  • Skin
  • Nose
  • Acne or other blemishes
  • Muscle size
  • Wrinkles
  • Genitalia
  • Breast size

The body area or feature that is the focus of criticism may change over a period of time. The patient may begin to get overcritical of some other area. They may even start having delusions about physical defects and imagine some flaw in their body, despite others trying their best to convince them otherwise.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Statistics

The exact incidence of this disorder is not known as yet. According to a German research, however, around 1-2% of all people satisfy the diagnostic criteria for this disease. Reportedly, a larger percentage exhibits milder signs of this condition.

According to one study, however, the condition may arise in one out of every 100 individuals. As many as 9 million individuals in the United States are supposed to suffer from this disorder. Of these, 75% reportedly seek plastic surgeries or other dermatological curative options for changing their appearance.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Causes

The exact cause(s) of this disorder is not fully known. However, certain possible causative factors have been suggested by doctors. These are:


The culture, environment and various experiences in life are supposed to contribute to this disease. This is particularly in cases where the aforementioned factors involve low self-image or negative or humiliating experiences about the body.


According to certain studies, this is a hereditary condition and is seen in members or generations of the same family. This strongly indicates involvement of genetic factors in the development of this condition.

Differences in brain chemicals

As per some evidence, neurotransmitters or naturally occurring chemicals of the brain are associated to differences in mood. In BDD patients, the level of these chemicals is supposed to be different from normal individuals. This is supposed to give rise to this disorder.

Variations in brain structure

In BDD patients, the rise of the condition is often associated to possible improper development of certain sections of the brain.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Diagnosis

The diagnosis of BDD typically involves a series of psychological and medical tests, such as:

Physical examination

It involves checking important physical signs, such as blood pressure, body temperature or heart rate as well as measuring height and weight of sufferers.

Laboratory tests

These may involve checking thyroid function, screening for drugs or alcohol or conducting a CBC (Complete Blood Count).

Psychological evaluation

Doctors or physicians typically ask patients about their feelings, behavior and thought patterns. Sufferers have to tell since when they have started to experience such feelings, how intense the thoughts are and how they affect their daily life.

Such tests can help accurately identify the problem as well as rule out other problems that might be the cause of the symptoms. Diagnosis may also help avoid associated complications.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis for BDD involves telling its symptoms apart from those of other similar conditions like:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Selective Mutism
  • Somatization
  • Schizophrenia

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment

The treatment of a BDD patient can be difficult, especially if he or she is unwilling to be cured. If treatment is possible to be performed, curative options for this condition involve:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

It aims at teaching healthy social behaviors to patients and avoiding obsessive conducts, like frequently checking oneself in the mirror. Therapy also helps patients learn about their condition and understand the feelings that produce it. The knowledge of such thoughts helps them stop having negative image of themselves and view their body in a more positive light. They can also learn about healthy ways to channelize their abnormal thoughts.

Therapists usually talk at some length with BDD patients or their family members about the appropriate type of therapy, aims of the treatment, the number of sessions required, length of treatment and other such issues.


There are no medications, approved by FDA (Food and Drug Administration), for the treatment of this specific condition. However, physicians may prescribe psychiatric medications (such as those used in curing depressive disorders) for remedying this condition. As BDD is supposed to result from problems associated with Serotonin (a brain chemical), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) drugs are most commonly prescribed. These appear to work more effectively than antidepressant medicines used for treating this disease.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Management

The disorder can be managed in the following ways:

  • Taking medications as per the directions of a physician
  • Adhering to the treatment plan
  • Learning more about the disease
  • Becoming more active by joining activities that can improve the body and mind
  • Paying attention to warning signals of BDD
  • Seeking medical care on a routine basis
  • Venting out frustration and other pent-up negative feelings in a diary or journal
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Engaging oneself in fun and recreational activities with friends and family members
  • Using stress-management techniques
  • Sticking to a healthy diet
  • Completely avoiding drugs, alcohol and other substances that can worsen the symptoms

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Risk Factors

Although the exact causes of this disorder is not known, some risk factors or trigger factors for this condition have been suggested. These involve:

  • Low self-confidence
  • Teasing during childhood
  • Being adolescent (the condition usually arises during adolescence)
  • Social or peer pressure
  • High expectations or ideals about beauty
  • Having biological relatives with BDD
  • Presence of another psychiatric condition, such as depression or anxiety

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Complications

Some of the complications of BDD involve:

  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression and other conditions affecting the mood
  • Substance abuse
  • Social phobia
  • Repeated hospitalizations
  • Suicidal behavior or thoughts
  • Social isolation
  • Tendency to stay confined in house
  • Lack of intimate relationships
  • Low self-confidence
  • Difficulty in attending school or workplace
  • Going through unnecessary medical processes, particularly cosmetic surgery

In many cases, sufferers are found to go through repeated cosmetic surgeries to achieve the body shape that they aspire to have. Plastic surgeries, if conducted often, can affect the health in a negative way and give rise to long term complications.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Prognosis

If treated by an experienced psychiatrist or psychologist, BDD patients can become normal. Expert guidance and consultation can help such individuals come to terms with this disorder and accept themselves as they are. Medications, along with therapies, are highly successful in removing negative body image and helping patients live and enjoy a normal life.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Prevention

There is no definite way to avoid this disorder. As the condition frequently arises in adolescence, children can be identified to be at risk of suffering from BDD. Early treatment can be of some assistance to patients. Practicing proper ways to manage stress, increasing resilience and boosting low self-confidence can also help avoid occurrence or recurrence of BDD. Long-term treatment and management may also help one avoid a relapse of symptoms of the condition.

Famous People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It is not uncommon for famous people to suffer from BDD. In fact, celebrities constitute one of the biggest sections of BDD sufferers. This is natural considering the perfect body type that they are supposed to maintain and the constant scrutiny that they have to go through.

Some of the most renowned personalities to suffer from this syndrome are:

  • Uma Thurman
  • Lily Allen
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar

While these celebrities were gutsy enough to admit having this condition, most shy away from declaring themselves of being BDD sufferers. Although they have not been officially diagnosed with the disorder, some famous people are also suspected of having it. Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe were long suspected of being BDD patients, even though they were clinically undiagnosed. Jackson underwent repeated cosmetic surgeries to change his complexion and facial features. An unsuccessful Rhinoplasty adversely affected his health, causing respiratory problems that affected his musical career. In a recent interview, Katherine Jackson also admitted to Oprah Winfrey about her brother’s addiction to cosmetic surgical procedures.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Pictures

Here are some useful pictures that will help you understand the behavior displayed by BDD patients. If any of your friends or family members constantly exhibit such behaviors, it is better for you to consider immediate professional counseling.

Image of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Picture 2 – Body Dysmorphic Disorder Image

Photo of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Picture 3 – Body Dysmorphic Disorder Photo

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Support Groups

There are some useful organizations that individuals with BDD and their family members can get in touch with for assistance and information regarding the condition. These include:

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Support Network of Ontario

Address: Toronto, ON


National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)

Address: MidCity Place, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NA

Phone: 020 7067 5800

Email id: [email protected]


Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma

Address: South London and Maudsley Trust, 99 Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AZ

Phone: 020 3228 2101/ 3228 3286

Email id: [email protected]


British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

Address: BACP House, 15 St John’s Business Park, Lutterworth LE17 4HB

Phone: 01455 883 316

Email id: [email protected]


Coping with this condition can be quite difficult. If talking to doctors and therapists is not very effective, patients should join a support group and connect with other people affected with BDD.

People with BDD typically go through repeated surgeries to correct physical defects. Such operations can be quite expensive and even affect the health of patients in a negative manner. Furthermore, surgical or dermatological treatment is not likely to solve the problem as BDD is a behavioral disease. There is every possibility of the patient still being unhappy about his or her physical appearance and criticizing another perceived bodily flaw. Most of them are unaware of their mental problem and even if they do, they are unlikely to seek psychological treatment out of embarrassment. It is essential for friends, family members or well-wishers of BDD patients to take initiative and seek psychiatric treatment on the behalf of sufferers.


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