Dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It’s not uncommon to have something about your body that you’d like to improve – most of us feel that way from time to time, but for some people, this dislike of certain parts of their appearance, or even an obsession with self-identified flaws can be problematic.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a condition where a person is extremely preoccupied with perceived imperfections in their body, that in reality, are not there. It occurs accompanied by an extreme fear of being judged by others that is often recurrent, causes extreme distress, and prevents the person from functioning normally. Some people with BDD avoid going out and will stay indoors for long periods of time because they fear the unwanted stares from strangers whom they believe are judging their unattractive looks or defects.

BDD may drive sufferers to cover themselves up by wearing excessive make-up or baggy clothes when going outside in order to hide the perceived defect/s. Some people with BDD may even resort to plastic or other surgeries to get rid of unwanted thoughts about their appearance. Children and teenagers who suffer from this disorder may want to skip school to avoid the anxiety.

This type of disorder typically occurs in people who also suffer from other disorders such as OCD. It has been found out that this disorder also appears more frequently in educated people and those who work in art and design, leading experts to say that an occupation in art and design may be a risk factor for developing BDD. Experts suggest that those who are in the arts may be more aesthetically minded and this can be carried over to how they look at their bodies. [i]


To prevent issues with image and appearance from becoming a full-blown disorder, there are certain things parents and family members can do. Raising children in an environment where there is more emphasis on less superficial things other than appearance can help foster a positive self image.


Family members and friends can help the person with BDD deal with recovery by showing that they are there to support them. Sometimes a person with BDD becomes obsessed with surgery as a way to treat perceived imperfections. Too many surgeries can have potentially fatal consequences, even when done one at a time. Family members who are concerned about a person undergoing too many surgeries may consider staging an intervention. This may be necessary if the person does not realize that they need help in dealing BDD.

Those who are currently undergoing treatment can help their own recovery by adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise, and reducing the sources of stress. Avoiding drugs and alcohol is also important when undergoing treatment for BDD.


Those who are diagnosed with BDD have a number of options open to them.

These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy


Studies have found that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has proven effective. In a study of 54 BDD patients who were randomly assigned to Cognitive Behavior Therapy or no treatment, BDD symptoms decreased significantly in those patients undergoing CBT. BDD was eliminated in 82% of cases at post treatment and 77% at follow-up (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology)

Cognitive behavioral therapy may help the person gain insight into the cause of the disorder and help change thinking and behavior patterns.


Medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants may help in controlling obsessive compulsive behaviors. Hospitalization may be required if the person ends up failing to care for themselves or when they are at risk of self-harm.


Psychotherapy is a technique used in BDD that employs verbal or nonverbal communication with a patient to treat psychiatric, behavioral, personality and emotional disorders. At Insight Psychological, we have therapists who have experience in treating BDD and can provided the support needed to have a healthy future. Contact us today.



[i] Possible association of body dysmorphic disorder with an occupation or education in art and design

David Veale 1, Michelle Ennis, Christina Lambrou