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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
More useful links
- How to use your health services
- Eating Disorders Association NI
- Find a mental health organisation
- Anxiety UK
- OCD Action
- OCD UK
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
For further information see terms and conditions.