What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, And Why Does It Make You Question Everything?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment
Mental Health

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, And Why Does It Make You Question Everything?

Apr 12, 2023

There is the onset of most appearance problems in a society where success is correlated with attractiveness, which is difficult to obtain. We can see body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) among them, known as the most debilitating and pervasive pathology relating to one's body image.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also known as dysmorphophobia, is a distinct mental disorder that impacts how people perceive their appearance. It is characterized by persistent, unpleasant preoccupations with perceived slight or inconspicuous defects in one's appearance. Some common signs people experience during BDD are significant distress, social disengagement, and functional impairment. Even if these apparent problems are slight or fictitious, people with BDD obsess. This addiction can be quite upsetting and interfere with daily life. This blog will give you a detailed look at body dysmorphic disorder symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Epidemiology Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

As per the National Library Of Medicine data, the prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder DSM 5  is 1.9% in the general population, 5.9% in adult outpatient psychiatric settings, and 7.4% in adult inpatient psychiatric settings. Various studies also show that gender ratios vary, with an estimated range of 1 to 1 and 3 to 2 in favor of women. There are roughly equal numbers of men and women in psychiatric settings. Females appear to be more affected in communal environments. BDD typically begins in adolescence.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder


The front striatal and temporoparietal occipital circuits that process visual-spatial information are dysfunctional. In contrast to controls, patients with BDD showed increased left hemispheric activity, particularly in the lateral prefrontal cortex and lateral temporal lobes, suggesting a preference for a more granular, focused approach to processing visual facial information. Compared to healthy control subjects, a smaller orbital frontal cortex, anterior cingulate volume, and total white matter may change brain morphology.


1.7% to 2.9% of the overall population, or roughly 1 in 50 people, are affected by BDD. However, given that people are sometimes unwilling to report their symptoms to others, it is likely that BDD is more common than this. Patients typically become aware of symptoms around adolescence, usually around the age of sixteen. Despite the disease's early beginnings, most of those who have it wait until they are in their early 30s before seeking therapy. BDD appears to affect both men and women equally, while some research indicates that women experience BDD more frequently than men. In practices for cosmetic surgery and dermatology, BDD is more common.

BDD In Children & Adults

Even though BDD typically manifests before age 18, very few researchers have investigated a spectrum of BDD's clinical manifestations in young people. Youths describe unusual appearance-related obsessive behaviors and distressing and time-consuming preoccupations, much like adults do. 

The primary cause of the psychosocial functioning impairment that almost all young people encounter is BDD symptoms. 18% of children and adolescents in a research of 33 children and adolescents and 22% of young people in a study of 36 youths had discontinued school primarily due to BDD symptoms.88 These issues could be particularly significant during adolescence since they could seriously obstruct crucial developmental transitions.

Symptoms Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

A preoccupation with one or more alleged physical faults that are not visible to others can be the main symptom of body dysmorphic disorder. The body may be affected by these symptoms in any area, but the skin, hair, nose, eyes, or weight are the most typical. BDD patients may spend hours daily monitoring, grooming, or evaluating how they compare to others. Because of the embarrassment, they avoid social situations or end up housebound. Some of the common symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Excessive grooming or hygiene practices
  • Seeking reassurance about appearance
  • Constantly checking yourself in mirrors or avoiding mirrors altogether
  • Comparing your appearance to others
  • Engaging in behaviors to cover up or disguise your perceived flaws, like donning bulky clothing or heavy makeup
  •  Feeling depressed or anxious about their appearance
  • Having thoughts about their appearance

It has slightly different signs from the bipolar disorder symptoms in women, mainly involving quick mood swings and causing manic depression. 

Causes Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Although the precise causes of BDD are not entirely understood, research has found that several genetic, neurological, and environmental factors may play a role in the condition's emergence. The following are some potential BDD causes:

  • Genetics - BDD may run in families, indicating the disorder has a hereditary component.
  • Neurobiological factors - According to some research, BDD may be accompanied by abnormalities in the brain, particularly in regions responsible for processing visual data.
  • Environmental factors -  Traumatic events, abuse, or physical or verbal teasing may impact how BDD develops.

Risk Factors For BDD 

The following are risk factors for BDD:

  • Having a family history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Having experienced trauma or abuse; having poor self-esteem or perfectionistic inclinations
  • Living in a society that lays a lot of emphasis on physical appearance
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Adolescents and teens go through bullying

How Is The Diagnosis Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder Done?

The diagnosis process of BDD can be challenging because people with this mental condition may be reluctant to discuss their concerns about their appearance. A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, may conduct a body dysmorphic disorder test based on a thorough evaluation of a person's symptoms, medical history, and family history. Diagnostic criteria for BDD include:-

  • Preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in one's appearance that are not noticeable to others or are minor
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as mirror checking or excessive grooming, related to the perceived flaws
  • There is severe distress or functional impairment in social, professional, or other areas.

However, some people with eating disorders also feel insecure about their appearance, including extra belly fat. If you have undergone a rapid lifestyle change, we advise you to take an eating disorder test before it's too late. You can easily take the test online.

Complications Associated with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder frequently exists with psychiatric problems, which worsens functional impairment. The most common comorbid condition is MDD. Additionally prevalent are OCD, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. BDD causes pronounced impairment in various available domains, including social, intellectual, occupational, and others. 

People with BDD frequently avoid social situations, close connections, and activities like jobs or school. According to studies, those with BDD are 2.6 times more likely than those without the disorder to attempt suicide and four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. According to studies, about one-third of people with BDD have delusions, making symptoms more severe and negatively affecting functioning.

Muscle Dysmorphia: A Prevalent Subtype Of BDD

The idea that your muscles aren't big enough is at the heart of muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder. Although it can happen to any gender, males are more likely to experience it. Muscle dysmorphia, like body dysmorphic disorder, can be challenging to spot. You may begin to feel like you have accomplished something because patients are often praised for their self-control and dedication to their health.

Living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Although living with BDD can be difficult and directly affects your mental health, there are things people can do to better their quality of life and manage their symptoms. Following are some pointers for managing BDD:-

  • Consultation with a mental health professional.
  • Avoiding factors that worsen symptoms and engaging in self-care and self-compassion.
  • Encircling oneself with positive individuals.
  • Pursuing past times that foster self-assurance.

It is critical to remember that BDD can be treated and recovered with appropriate care and assistance.

Possible Treatment Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Psychotherapy and medication are frequently used as body dysmorphic disorder treatment. It is possible to effectively lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety with antidepressant drugs such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). 

BDD can also be effectively treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). People with BDD can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to uncover and address self-defeating ideas and beliefs. It also offers children coping mechanisms for managing anxiety and discomfort over their looks.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

It is a treatment that focuses on recognizing and altering negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with appearance. The development of new coping mechanisms and increased self-esteem are two benefits of CBT for those with BDD.


SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are among the drugs that may be useful in treating BDD symptoms. Increased serotonin levels in the brain, which can enhance mood and lessen anxiety, is how these drugs operate.

Join A Support Group

Joining a BDD support group can give sufferers with the disorder a sense of belonging and make them feel less alone. As well as advice and coping mechanisms support groups can offer.

Lifestyle adjustments  

Self-care activities like exercise, a nutritious diet, and stress-relieving methods like yoga or meditation can all help you manage your BDD.

Hospitalization might be required in extreme circumstances to offer extended care and support. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidelines for treating BDD and OCD. 

  • Recommendation for a guided self-help book for minor disorders.
  • Treatment for moderate problems may involve CBT or SSRIs.
  • SSRIs and CBT together for severe issues.

Wrap Up 

The main traits and associated psychopathology of body dysmorphic disorder have been covered in this article, along with specific clinical connections and influencing factors. We also included a diagnosis and possible treatment for body dysmorphic disorder symptoms. You need to contact a therapist and discuss the issue in detail. We hope you find the information about BDD helpful. For more insightful tips and guides, subscribe to our newsletter now!



How prevalent is body dysmorphic disorder?

BDD is thought to afflict 1-2% of the general population, while it may be more prevalent in other groups, such as those who suffer from eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Can body dysmorphic disorder be treated?

BDD has no known cure, but with treatment, most people can learn to control their symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

How is body dysmorphic disorder detected?

Based on a thorough assessment of symptoms, medical history, and psychological testing, a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose BDD.

Can you prevent body dysmorphic disorder?

While early diagnosis and therapy can lessen the intensity of symptoms and improve results, there is no proven way to avoid BDD.

What distinguishes body dysmorphic disorder from common concerns about appearance?

While specific worries about appearance are acceptable, many who have BDD have an excessive and upsetting preoccupation with perceived faults that severely interfere with their everyday lives.

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