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Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

We have all looked in the mirror and felt a bit insecure at times. Maybe you’re not loving the way your hair looks today, or your jeans feel tighter than usual (in all the wrong places).

However, what do you do when you are so preoccupied with the way you look, you panic about going out in public? Or you cannot stand the thought of posing for pictures with friends?

What do you do when you use every accessory possible to cover up your face? Whether it be a scarf, sunglasses, a large hat, or even a hand placement.

This can feel incredibly isolating and disrupt you from handling even the most basic daily tasks.

If you feel this way, you might be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Don’t worry – you are not alone. Let’s take a closer look at what BDD is, and how you can overcome it.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, other times called body dysmorphia, or BDD, is a mental health condition in which an individual becomes overly anxious about their appearance. A person may spend an excessive amount of time worrying about or attempting to cover up their perceived flaws.

These flaws are often minor and only apparent to the individual suffering. However, to someone struggling with body dysmorphia, these blemishes are overwhelming and prevent them from living a happy life.

BDD commonly co-occur with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This could be because the conditions have some of the same underlying reasons. For instance, it is believed that both diseases are brought on by a mix of hereditary and environmental factors, whilst both conditions also feature bothersome thoughts and repeated actions.

The most common areas of concern for someone with body dysmorphia include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Scars
  • Acne
  • Hair: whether they have ‘too much’ body hair, or are struggling with baldness
  • Facial features (oftentimes the nose)
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Body odours
  • Buttocks
  • Breast size
  • Penis size
  • Muscles
  • Thighs
How Do I Know If I Have Body Dysmorphia Disorder?

Symptoms of body dysmorphia vary from person to person. Learning what to look out for can help you find treatment sooner, decreasing your risk of depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts.

You may be suffering from body dysmorphia if you:

  • Worry a lot about a specific part of your body
  • Spend a great deal of time comparing yourself to others
  • Look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
  • Go to great lengths to conceal flaws
  • Pick at your skin
  • View yourself as “ugly”
  • Think about your flaws for hours a day
  • Miss school, work, or social outings due to your appearance
  • Have plastic surgery to fix your flaws
  • Avoid spending time with others due to your appearance
  • Experience extreme emotional distress due to your appearance
  • Constantly ask those around you for reassurance

It is important to note that while many of us experience these symptoms from time to time, what differentiates an insecure individual from someone suffering from body dysmorphia is the amount of time invested.

It is normal to look over your flaws in the mirror, however when you spend hours a day doing so, it may be problematic. The same goes for plastic surgery. No, not every person that undergoes the knife has body dysmorphia; however, some people who do, may engage in several surgeries without ever feeling fully content.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia does not discriminate. Like many mental health conditions, it can impact anyone of any age, race, ethnicity, or gender.

However, it is more likely to influence women rather than men. In addition, it is often experienced at higher rates among teenagers or young adults. This is a critical time in development in which youth are discovering their own growing bodies and may feel overly self-conscious with others.

What Causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Whilst the root cause of body dysmorphic disorder is unclear, it is thought to be a combination of many factors. Like various mental illnesses, BDD can arise due to various issues such as family history, past trauma, negative experiences or evaluation in regard to a person’s body, or abnormal brain function.

In addition, low self-esteem may contribute to body dysmorphia in young adolescents. Parents are encouraged to refrain from any critical comments regarding growing children’s bodies to reduce the risk of developing BDD.

How Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treated?

If you feel as though you may be struggling with body dysmorphia, it is recommended to speak with your primary medical doctor as it can lead to a host of bigger problems, both mental and physical.

There are various forms of treatment that can help BDD get better and even go into remission.

  • Mild: If you are experiencing a milder form of body dysmorphia, cognitive behavioural therapy is often an effective option.
  • Moderate: Symptoms that are more prominent, yet not severe are often treated with either CBT or an anti-depressant.
  • Severe: If your doctor determines your symptoms are severe, it is highly encouraged to engage in both CBT and medication.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

When it comes to body dysmorphia, the way we think about or perceive our flaws is the greatest driving factor that continues this condition.

CBT is an individual, talk-based treatment that focuses on changing negative or unhelpful thought patterns and redirecting them into more positive ones. With CBT, an individual can learn how to correct the way they view their flaws as well as get any compulsive behaviours under control.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are known as the first line of defence against BDD. Whilst these medications are used as anti-depressants, they also work to reduce compulsive behaviours and obsessive thoughts, two common symptoms of body dysmorphia.

These medications include Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), and Anafranil (clomipramine). While there is no FDA-approved medication for BDD, scientific studies have shown SSRIs to be safe and effective for those with body dysmorphic disorder.

Your Body Is Beautiful

People struggling with body dysmorphia become incredibly obsessed with their flaws, so much so they may choose to isolate themselves from others or avoid going out in public.

These individuals are not shallow, or self-obsessed. BDD can have a major impact on someone’s life and cause them a great deal of suffering. If you suspect you may have BDD, it is encouraged to seek help.

Your symptoms are unlikely to disappear on their own, and many times can get worse. Your body is beautiful and seeking treatment for BDD is a baby step in ensuring you believe it.

Orchestrate Health offers bespoke mental health services that people can access from the comfort of their own home or within their community, with rapid response times and even daily visits if needed. Orchestrate Health can provide help for those struggling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and remove the inconvenience of travelling to and from appointments.




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