About body dysmorphic disorder
What causes BDD?
It’s unknown exactly what causes BDD. It may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which may be genetically based.
A person with a family history of anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder is more prone to develop this type of problem.
Signs to look for (symptoms)
People suffering from BDD often lack self-esteem, may be self-conscious around others and avoid social situations. They may also seek medical reassurance about a particular physical feature that is often not noticeable to others.
Other signs include:
- frequently comparing the appearance of the perceived flaw with that of others
- avoiding mirrors
- excessive grooming (e.g. combing hair, shaving, removing or cutting hair, applying makeup)
- frequently checking appearance of specific part in mirrors and other reflective surfaces
- camouflaging the perceived defect with clothing, makeup, hats, hands, or posture
- seeking reassurance about the flaw or attempting to convince others of its ugliness
- frequently touching the perceived defect.
How the doctor determines if you have BDD (diagnosis)
If you have BDD you may also be depressed or have social anxiety. When you see your doctor it is important to tell them as much as you can about how you are feeling and what you are going through.
They can then refer you to an appropriate mental health professional, who can help you tease out what the problem is and whether there is an additional problem.
Psychoeducation (i.e. providing education)
Education can be extremely important to help you, your family/whānau and supporters to understand this disorder and help in the recovery. Your mental health professional will give you information about the disorder, suggest different ways to handle it, and discusses any complications which may occur.
There are also numerous self-help books available in the shops which some find to be a useful first stage in getting help.
They can teach you about some of the ways of dealing with your anxiety disorder and they can also get you used to reading about or discussing problems which you have previously kept completely to yourself. They are generally written by medical experts but draw on the experience of people who have anxiety disorders.
Antidepressant medication, in conjunction with CBT has proven effective in improving the symptoms of BDD.
You should be told what effects you should notice from any medication, receive clear instructions about how you should take them and what precautions are necessary.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding no medication is entirely safe.
The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.
Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing.
In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.
It's also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual checkup with your doctor.
Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.
Thanks to Janet Peters, registered psychologist, for reviewing this content. Date last reviewed: September 2014.
Resources & Links
Anxiety NZ Trust
We’re here to help the 1 in 4 Kiwis who experience anxiety, depression, panic attacks, OCD or phobias.
BDD Foundation UK
Dedicated to the relief of suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, to advance education & understanding of BDD.
We work to relieve and support those living with anxiety and anxiety-based depression, with information & understandi...
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