Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a serious medical condition that can have debilitating effects on a woman’s self-esteem. In fact, common body dysmorphic disorder symptoms include depression and eating disorders; and, left untreated, it can also lead to an increased risk of suicide. Because little has been written about bdd, it is often misunderstood. This article uncovers the mystery surrounding BDD, exploring symptoms of bdd, its causes, as well as various treatment options for women suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

What is BDD?

BDD is a medical condition in which the individual has a distorted focus on a certain aspect of her body, such as her hair, nose, weight or chest.  A women, or a man, becomes fixated on this aspect of her body and will do anything to change or alter it and is unable to see positive aspects of their physical form.

BDD is currently on the rise, and shockingly affects one in fifty people, most of whom are in their teens or twenties. The onset of the disease can be either abrupt or gradual and you may not know who or when it will hit.

While many women feel dissatisfied with their bodies at some point in their lives, BDD is characterized by a disproportionate fixation with either a perceived or real physical defect.  This goes beyond normal dissatisfaction with your figure or with aspects of your body.  Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an unhealthy and obsessive fixation.

Usually chronic, body dysmorphic disorder results in the individual constantly thinking about the area of concern and quickly consumes the person’s thoughts, affecting her overall physical and mental health.  This can then affect a person’s personality, work, study and all aspects of their lives.

Some physical obsessions that are common include being preoccupied with acne, breast size, facial symmetry and, of course, weight.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Causes

Although the exact cause of body dysmorphic disorder is unknown, experts concur that the following factors are involved in the development of the disorder, with several of these factors often working together in an individual case:

  • chemical imbalance: low levels of serotonin (the hormone responsible for feelings of happiness) can lead to bdd. Such imbalances are generally genetic
  • eating disorders: eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can lead to bdd
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • depression
  • agoraphobia: an extreme fear of certain places and situations that results in the individual avoiding certain scenarios, for example, traveling by airplane
  • trichotillomania: a compulsion to pull or twirl one’s own hair excessively

In addition, body dysmorphic disorder can lead to extreme isolation, unecessary or excessive cosmetic surgery and even suicide.

Higher rates of incidence of this disorder occur in higher socio-economic levels, as often in such demographics, there is a higher sense of expectation with regard to physical appearance.


The following are common Body Dysmorphic Disorder


  • low self-esteem
  • avoiding mirrors or using mirrors excessively in order to check one’s appearanceconstantly seeking reassurance about appearance
  • repeated touching of perceived flaw
  • skin picking
  • using hands, hat, posture, etc. to hide perceived flaw
  • anxiety in public
  • avoiding social situations


In order to diagnose whether an individual in fact has bdd, a doctor will conduct a body dysmorphic disorder examination (BDDE).

A BDDE consists of examining the individual’s medical history, including whether there is a history of mental illness, and also examines the individual’s daily behavior, including the extent of preoccupation of the individual with her appearance, as well as the level of self-consciousness she feels.

The patient’s family will also often be questioned with regard to the individual’s behavior.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment

Typical bdd treatment consists of medical and therapeutic treatment.

Anti-depressants such as Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil are often prescribed.

Cognitive behavior therapy is a crucial part of bdd therapy, as it teaches the individual how to avoid engaging in negative behavior.

How to Cope with BDD

When undergoing bdd treatment, it is important to always follow medical treatment and to attend therapy sessions.

In addition, it can be very beneficial to confide in a loved one or to join a bdd support group, as establishing a personal support network can improve your overall health and ensure that you are on the road to recovery.

For more information, read an article about body dysmorphic disorder.


Leave a Comment