Body dysmorphic disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s appearance. Body dysmorphic disorder is also called BDD.

Concerns about body parts

Any body part can be the focus of concern. Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder frequently are preoccupied with their facial characteristics. Patients may worry about their hair or skin. People with facial or skin concerns pick at their skin. Some patients have concerns involving body symmetry. Some worry that they are not muscular enough or that they are small and weak. Most of these concerns are imaginary, but if a slight “defect” is in fact present the concern is regarded as overly excessive.

Characteristics of body dysmorphic disorder

Some common characteristics are:

  • spending at least one hour a day thinking about their perceived appearance flaws
  • repetitively check their minor or imagined flaw in mirrors
  • going to great lengths to avoid mirrors
  • attempting to hide the defect with make-up, sunglasses, clothing, etc
  • excessive grooming behaviors

The most common features people obsess about:

  • Face
    • nose, complexion, wrinkles, acne and other blemishes
  • Hair
    • appearance, thinning and baldness
  • Skin and vein appearance
  • Breast size
  • Muscle size and tone
  • Genitalia

What causes body dysmorphic disorder

The specific cause is unknown. However environmental influences and life experiences may be a contributing factor. This is especially true if experiences involve negative social evaluations about your body or self-image, or even childhood neglect or abuse.

Health complications of body dysmorphic disorder

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • impairment of social life
  • suicide (in severe cases)

Treatment options for body dysmorphic disorder

Usually individuals with body dysmorphic disorder have a lot of shame and embarrassment about their appearance. This often keeps them from seeking treatment. Treatment is important because body dysmorphic disorder will not get better or go away on its own. If left untreated, it is likely to get worst, leading to severe depression, anxiety and may lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Some common forms of treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or medication. If left untreated, body dysmorphic disorder can lead to hospitalizations and suicide.