Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Possible Causes and How You Can Access Treatment and Support

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image.

When Might You Be Diagnosed?

You might be given a diagnosis of BDD if you:

  • experience obsessive worries about one or more perceived flaws in your physical appearance; the flaw cannot be seen by others or appears very slight
  • develop compulsive behaviours and routines, such as excessive use of mirrors or picking your skin, to deal with the worries you have about the way you look

If you have BDD, these obsessions and behaviours cause emotional distress and have a significant impact on your ability to carry on with your day-to-day life. In this way, BDD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

BDD can vary in severity from person-to-person and from day-to-day. For some people, concerns around appearance may make it difficult for them to go out in public or see other people.

"It varies day-to-day. It can sit quietly or it can be completely
debilitating."
BDD May Also Cause Other Problems Such As:
  • feelings of shame, guilt or loneliness
  • isolating yourself to avoid situations that cause you anxiety or discomfort
  • depression or anxiety
  • misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • feeling you need unnecessary medical procedures, such as cosmetic surgery
  • eating disorders
  • self-harm
  • suicidal thoughts

Many people with BDD do not seek help because they are worried that people will judge them or think they are vain. This means that many people with BDD are likely to experience it for a long time before seeking support.

What Are the Common Signs of BDD?

People with BDD see themselves differently to how others see them. Although everyone's experience of BDD is unique, there are some common signs.

Common obsessive worries about the body

  • If you have BDD you experience intrusive, negative thoughts about one
    specific area (or several areas) of your body which you think is:
  • out of proportion
  • too big or too small
  • disfigured
  • lacking symmetry

These thoughts cause you significant anxiety and you will often spend several hours a day thinking about the area or areas of concern. BDD can
affect any area of the body but common areas of anxiety include your
skin, hair, nose, chin, lips or genitals.

''I've struggled with BDD for 13 years. It changes. Sometimes it
is something little, like my nose, that is really bothering me that
day. Sometimes it is every centimetre of my body that just feels
wrong.''
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