Mental Help Net
Eating Disorders
Basic InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews
Therapist Search
Find a Therapist:
 (USA/CAN only)

Use our Advanced Search to locate a therapist outside of North America.

Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Personality Disorders
Self Esteem
Mental Disorders

Bill WhiteBill White
A blog about mental and emotional health

The XYZs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Bill White Updated: Feb 3rd 2011

Tens of millions worldwide endure it. 80% have considered suicide. And the suicide completion rate is double that of major depressive disorder. What emotional/mental health disorder am I talking about? Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

upset woman with husbandImagine being consumed - beaten down - by the fact that you have some sort of horrible defect in your physical appearance. And you're sure it'll have others view you as repulsive.

Of course, the defect(s) is perceived - others don't notice.

What Is BDD?

Very simply, BDD is a condition characterized by over-the-top preoccupation with an imaginary physical defect. And the preoccupation is of such magnitude that one's routine life-functioning is turned upside down. BDD typically presents in adolescence and early adulthood. It strikes women and men equally.

Here's a list of the top five areas of focus for those enduring BDD, beginning with the most upsetting...

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Nose
  • Toes
  • Weight
  • Abdomen

In addition to being misdiagnosed, BDD is all too often misunderstood as an issue of vanity. Actually, the exact opposite is true, as those enduring BDD believe themselves to be incredibly difficult to behold.

In spite of their great pain, those enduring BDD often don't seek treatment - men more than women. And two of the major reasons are a fear of being perceived as vain, and the sheer embarrassment of coming forth and being seen. Indeed, being terrified of harsh judgment and ridicule are foundational in BDD.

BDD is a curious phenomenon. If you're into categorizing, it's a fit with the anxiety and somatoform disorders. And it could easily be a manifestation of an eating disorder. With regard to the anxiety disorders in particular, its social judgment piece makes it a great match with social phobia (social anxiety disorder).

BDD Symptoms & Behaviors

Here are some common BDD symptoms and behaviors...

  • Obsessive thoughts about an appearance defect(s)
  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviors related to the defect(s) - e.g.: the use of makeup to remedy a skin flaw
  • Delusional thoughts and beliefs related to the defect(s)
  • Social and family withdrawal
  • Suicidal ideation and behavior
  • Severe anxiety and panic
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Strong feelings of shame
  • Over-dependence on a significant other, family member, or friend
  • Inability to work or go to school
  • Problems with initiating and maintaining relationships
  • Substance abuse
  • Repetitive behaviors - e.g.: applying makeup, looking in the mirror
  • Body modifications
  • Mirror/reflection checking
  • Inability to look at one's image - removing/blocking mirrors
  • Distractions such as outrageous clothing or behavior
  • Excessive skin picking, hair combing, shaving, etc.
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Seeking of reassurance
  • Excessive self-work - e.g.: exercise, dieting
  • Comparing body parts and appearance with others'
  • Obsession with research relating to repairs for the defect(s)
  • Obsession with curative procedures
  • Excessive enema use


Any notion of the existence of BDD calls for immediate intervention. Research has shown that the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the selective serotonin and serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, SSNRIs) can deliver relief.

There are plenty of support resources out and about for those enduring BDD. For some suggestions, click here.


BDD is a curious disorder that calls for careful screening and immediate intervention. If you believe BDD is a part of your life, do your best to trust someone enough to discuss your symptoms. If you're that someone - listen, learn about the disorder, and provide all of the support and resources you can.

I enjoy bringing my readers objective information regarding the emotional and mental health disorders. And it's especially gratifying to focus upon a disorder that doesn't get much press.


Bill White

After enduring decades of anxiety, depression, and alcoholism; Bill made it out of the woods. He found his life’s passion along the way, earned his counseling credentials, and is ready to lend a hand. Visit his blog at, and you can contact Bill at

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Follow us on Twitter!

Find us on Facebook!

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Powered by CenterSite.Net