Body Dysmorphic Disorder

By Vishnuka Sivapoologasundaram

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

We all have something we do not like about appearance - our height , weight or how we smile, or our hair. These are all things that we learnt to come to terms with and we do not let it affect our day to day lives. But Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a body image disorder that causes one to constantly think about their perceived flaws in an obsessive manner. One suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder ( a.k.a BDD) will spend an excessive amount of time thinking about a minor or imagined defect in their appearance. It could be as simple as a crooked nose, a suffer of this disorder would spend a large amount of time thinking about the perceived flaw causing them to become distressed and it begins to intrudes with their day to day life. Many with BDD become housebound because of the anguish caused by the disorder.

Signs and Symptoms:

Some signs and symptoms that suffers of BDD go through are:

  • Excessive behaviors; skin picking, hair plucking, excessive exercising , dieting (crash diets)
  • Avoidance of social situations.
  • Strongly believes that they have an abnormality or defect in their appearance that makes them unattractive or undesirable.
  • Frequent examination of themselves in the mirror , or avoids the mirror completely.
  • Is always preoccupied with their physical appearance.
  • Always compares themselves to other people.
  • Needs reassurance about their appearance by others
  • Low self esteem and confidence

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What causes BDD?

The exact cause of BDD is still unclear but studies have shown that it maybe due to problems with the serotonin ( the brain's chemical neurotransmitters). The imbalance of serotonin in the brain plays a role in obsessive compulsive disorder as well as depression and anxiety. The chemical imbalance can be inherited from family members who already suffer with depression or anxiety causing one to get BDD. This explains why not everyone gets BDD and only some.


BDD can also be developed because of the environment that you live in. If you live in a society where appearance is always criticized and made a big deal, one can develop body image issues. Teasing at school or by family members about their appearance can also harm ones self confidence. But these things do not majorly contribute to BDD since many are criticized about their appearance on a daily basis but it is only a few that are very sensitive to it.


It is not exactly clear on why and how BDD forms as the people suffering from it are not willing to talk about their problems openly.

Who is affected ?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder can effect anyone but it is believed that it develops throughout ones teenage years. In the western community Body Dysmorphia is equally common between men & women. But milder BDD has become more common in women. Differences between men and women are that men may worry about their body tone & muscle tone as well as their genitals or their hair ( balding ). While women may worry more about their skin , weight , stomach , buttocks , breasts etc. But the similarities are that both effect ones life immensely.

How does BDD impact someones life?

Ones suffering from Body Dysmorphia tend to keep their struggles to themselves as they are ashamed of what they are going through and are afraid of being considered superficial or vain. Sufferers of BDD avoid social situations and become homebound ad they are afraid of getting negative attention due to their appearance "flaws". Many are known to be single or divorced as they are unable to form and maintain close relationships. This is due to the fact that many do not understand what BDD is or what the person is going through. As a result those suffering from this feel misunderstood , judged or alone. Partners and family also finds it very distressing when they are unable to help their loved one to love themselves and stop feeling "ugly". Most even consult with dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons so that they could help fix their "defect" and this becomes an unhealthy solution as they will never be satisfied with the work that is done.


Those who stay inside from being seen start developing social anxiety as well as depression and those with severe BDD might even think about or attempt suicide.

How common is BDD?

BDD mainly develops during the teenage years where one is concerned about the appearance the most. Many do not seek to get help because they are ashamed of their struggles. Studies prove that 1 in 100 people are affected by Body Dysmorphia Disorder. Surveys show that 2% of America's are diagnosed with Body Dysmorphia and many struggle with this disorder but are diagnosed under depression , obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety as BDD is known as the hidden disorder.

Getting help & treatments!

The first step to get better is to recognize that you have a problem. Addressing that you suffer with Body Dysmorphic Disorder shows that you are ready to get help and get better. There are two main treatments that can help with BDD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (a.k.a CBT) and Medication.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps train you to change the way you think about each situation and helps you improve your reaction and actions to certain situations. CBT is usually preformed by a trained personal such as a psychologist, therapist or a social worker.

The Medication would be Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (a.k.a SSRI). SSRI is an antidepressant that is mainly used with patients that have depression or compulsive disorders. SSRI helps improve the balance of chemicals in the brain and it mainly targets the serotonin levels. Medication would be the best treatment for anyone suffering with chemical imbalance or any with family history of depression or OCD.

For better results taking therapy and medication would improve the chances of the sufferer getting better.



Help Groups

Credit Valley Hospital has a Mental Health Unit that helps people of all ages but mostly teens and children. If referred by your family physician you can get an appointment with a psychiatrist who will help diagnose you and tell you about the treatments available and what they suggest to you. The waitlist however is about 2 months.

After being diagnosed you may referred to a social worker, psychologist or a therapist to start your treatment which would be CBT for people with BDD. You and the therapist will work one on one to help improve your lifestyles and issues for you to have a full recovery.

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Works Citied

Lyness, A. (2013, May 1). Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/body_image/body_image_problem.html#


Body dysmorphic disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20029953


Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd


About BDD. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://bddfoundation.org/helping-you/about-bdd/


The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Program at Rhode Island Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.rhodeislandhospital.org/preoccupations-and-behaviors.html