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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Symptoms and Treatment

Signs and symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, its effects on sufferers, and treatment of BDD.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a type of disorder called a "somatization disorder" and represents a preoccupation with an "imagined or excessive concern with a defect (perceived or real) with appearance. All of us, from time-to-time, become concerned with the way our body (or its parts) look. We may think our hips are too big, our waist too large, our nose or ears or lips are too big or too small. These concerns are fairly common and don't in and of themselves represent a psychiatric disorder. But for people afflicted by BDD, these concerns are either unreal (there is only an "imagined" defect) or they are excessive (there is a small defect that is "overblown" in the person's mind). Most importantly, as with all psychiatric disorders, it causes clinically significant emotional distress or impairment in day-to-day functioning.

In Body Dysmorphic Disorder, the perceived flaws in body parts are distorted - not real at all, or not nearly as bad as seen by the sufferer. The person with BDD, literally, becomes "obsessed" by the perceived flaw(s), and will often spend hours looking at themselves in a mirror.

Tragically, this problem is becoming more common, and in some studies is felt to effect almost 1 in 50 persons, often teens or young adults. The BDD patient is likely to suffer from low self-esteem as well. This condition is often one that co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders such as: depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and even substance abuse.

Too Many Plastic Surgery Procedures May Be Symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Often, if the BDD sufferer can afford it, plastic surgery is seen as the obvious solution. The problem is that no amount of such surgery "is enough," because there is always another perceived body "flaw" that takes the place of the one treated by plastic surgery. BDD sufferers often then become "addicted" to more and more plastic surgery procedures, only to find that none helps the underlying emotional condition.

Nor does reassurance by family members and friends help. It is as if the reassurance of loved ones "falls on deaf ears." I have treated many such people whose problems started in their teens or twenties, but are still bothered by the condition well into middle-age.

Treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder begins with recognizing the disorder for what it is - a psychological / psychiatric problem rather than a physical "flaw." Generally it is believed that psychotherapy, including behavioral and cognitive approaches, is the treatment of choice. Medications, such as the serotonin increasing antidepressants, may decrease the anxiety and obsessions, but ultimately it is therapy that helps the most.

On our HealthyPlace TV show on Body Dysmorphic Disorder, we will explore its impact on sufferers and discuss the treatment of BDD in more detail.

Extensive information on eating disorders.

Watch HealthyPlace TV Show on Struggling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Join us this Tuesday, November 10. You can watch the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show live (5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET) and on-demand on our website.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of HealthyPlace.com. Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Coping with Suicide
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, September 21). Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Symptoms and Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/about-hptv/croft-blog/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd-symptoms-and-treatment

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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