Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often not noticed by others. You should visit your GP if you think you might have BDD, (see getting help section).

About BDD

People of any age can have BDD, but it is most common in teenagers and young adults. It affects both men and women.

Having BDD does not mean you are vain or self-obsessed. It can be very upsetting and have a big impact on your life.

Symptoms of BDD

You might have BDD if you:

  • worry a lot about a specific area of your body (particularly your face)
  • spend a lot of time comparing your looks with other people's
  • look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
  • go to a lot of effort to hide flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
  • pick at your skin to make it "smooth"
  • have an eating disorder

BDD can seriously affect your daily life, including your work, social life and relationships. BDD can also lead to depressionself-harm and even thoughts of suicide.

Getting help for BDD

You should visit your GP if you think you might have BDD.

They will probably ask a number of questions about your symptoms and how they affect your life. They may also ask if you have had any thoughts about harming yourself.

Your GP may refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment, or you may be treated through your GP.

It can be very difficult to seek help for BDD. But it's important to remember that you have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.

Seeking help is important because your symptoms probably won't go away without treatment and may get worse.

Treatments for BDD

The symptoms of BDD can get better with treatment. Treatments include:

  • if you have mild symptoms of BDD you should be referred for a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which you have either on your own or in a group
  • if you have moderate symptoms of BDD you should be offered either CBT or antidepressant medication
  • if you have more severe symptoms of BDD, or other treatments don't work, you should be offered CBT together with antidepressant medication

Further treatment

If treatment with both CBT and antidepressant medication has not improved your BDD symptoms after 12 weeks, you may be prescribed a different type of antidepressant.

If you don't see any improvements in your symptoms, you may be referred to a mental health clinic.

Causes of BDD

It is not known exactly what causes BDD, but it might be linked with:

  • genetics – you may be more likely to develop BDD if you have a relative with BDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression
  • a chemical imbalance in the brain
  • a traumatic experience in the past – you may be more likely to develop BDD if you were teased, bullied or abused when you were a child

Some people with BDD also have another mental health condition, such as OCDgeneralised anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.

Things you can try yourself (H2)

Support groups for BDD

Some people may find it helpful to contact or join a support group for information, advice and practical tips on coping with BDD.

You can ask your doctor if there are any groups in your area or see ‘more useful links’ below for further information.

Mental wellbeing

Practising mindfulness exercises may help you if you're feeling low or anxious.

Some people also find it helpful to get together with friends or family, or to try doing something new to improve their mental wellbeing.

It may also be helpful to try some relaxation and breathing exercises to relieve stress and anxiety.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email:
rating@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about property valuation, email:
valuation@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about land registry, email:
CustomerInformation.LandRegistration@finance-ni.gov.uk

For mapping queries, email:
Mapping.Helpdesk@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section, then for queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.