Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is defined as a preoccupation with a perceived defect in one's appearance, e.g. if a slight defect is present (which others hardly notice) it is regarded as markedly excessive.
The term Dysmorphophobia is also used by psychiatrists. To warrant a diagnosis the individual’s preoccupation must be causing significant distress or handicap in their social or occupational life.
Due to its symptoms BDD may also be associated with:
• OCD - repeated checking of the 'defect'
• Major Depressive Disorder - feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem
• Delusional Disorder – perception that the 'defect' is more pronounced than it is in reality
• Social phobia – people may avoid contact with others due to embarrassment about the 'defect'; those affected may be very fearful of the perceived judgement of others
It is unclear why this disorder develops. Biological, psychological and social factors have all been implicated. The disorder tends to follow a continuous path. However the focus of the preoccupation may change.
Onset usually occurs in adolescence, though in some instances Body Dysmorphic Disorder can manifest in childhood. It seems to be equally prevalent in men and women. It is not clear how common the disorder is but in cosmetic and dermatological settings it is has been reported in as many as 15% of individuals - cosmetic surgery is usually contra-indicated, ie it would generally not be recommended as a means of addressing the perceived body defect.
Psychotherapy and counselling are thought to be beneficial in many cases of BDD as these approaches help people get an understanding of factors underlying and contributing to their condition. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also help.
Medication prescribed tends to be SSRIs that are also used to treat depression, OCD and other anxiety related disorders.
SANE offers emotional support and information to anyone affected by Body Dysmorphic disorder (BDD), including family, friends and carers. If you or anyone you know may be affected, you can receive free mental health support via our Textcare and Support Forum services. Our helpline is also available on 0300 304 7000 6 pm – 11 pm.