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Body Dysmorphic Disorder

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Body Dysmorphic Disorder » Featured Article

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a serious illness when a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose. A person with BDD tends to have cosmetic surgery, and even if the surgeries are successful, does not think they are and is unhappy with the outcomes.

What are the symptoms of BDD?

  • Being preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose, such as acne, scarring, facial lines, marks, pale skin, thinning hair, excessive body hair, large nose, or crooked nose.


  • Having a lot of anxiety and stress about the perceived flaw and spending a lot of time focusing on it, such as frequently picking at skin, excessively checking appearance in a mirror, hiding the imperfection, comparing appearance with others, excessively grooming, seeking reassurance from others about how they look, and getting cosmetic surgery.

Some people with mild symptoms of BDD can function well, despite the stress they feel. For others, the illness can get so serious that they may be unable to work, socialize, or leave their homes. They worry that they look ugly, or that people will laugh at them. Some even commit suicide.

Getting cosmetic surgery can make BDD worse. They are often not happy with the outcome of the surgery. If they are, they may start to focus attention on another body area and become preoccupied trying to fix the new “defect.” In this case, some patients with BDD become angry at the surgeon for making their appearance worse and may even become violent towards the surgeon.

What is the treatment for BDD?

  • Medications. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are antidepressants that decrease the obsessive and compulsive behaviors.


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a type of therapy with several steps:
    • The therapist asks the patient to enter social situations without covering up her "defect."
    • The therapist helps the patient stop doing the compulsive behaviors to check the defect or cover it up. This may include removing mirrors, covering skin areas that the patient picks, or not using make-up.
    • The therapist helps the patient change their false beliefs about their appearance.

SOURCE: National Women's Health Information Center; August 2004



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