What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a psychiatric condition. People with the disorder spend much of their time (around 3-8 hours a day) thinking about parts of appearance that they feel are unattractive or abnormal. The most common areas of concern are the hair, nose, and skin. Any area of the body can be causes for concern, however.
In addition to being preoccupied with aspects of their appearance, individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder engage in various repetitive behaviours and mental acts. These may include, but are not limited to: mirror checking, skin picking, excessive hair grooming, reassurance seeking, and comparing appearance to others.
Most people are dissatisfied with some part(s) of their appearance. In Body Dysmorphic Disorder, however, this dissatisfaction leads to great distress and causes disturbance in a person’s life. Many individuals with the condition are unable to fully maintain study/work and relationship commitments because of their appearance concerns, for example. In extreme cases, some even attempt suicide.
What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is seen in around 2% of the general population. It typically emerges in adolescence, around the age of 16. There is no one cause of the condition, however, it is believed to run in families (genetic) and has been linked to childhood neglect and bullying (environmental).
How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder treated?
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in a wide range of psychiatric conditions. CBT helps people to identify and alter problematic thoughts (i.e. cognitions) and behaviours. For Body Dysmorphic Disorder, CBT involves a person challenging the distress-provoking beliefs they hold about their appearance. In addition, a CBT therapist will help a person to reduce the repetitive behaviours and mental acts that they engage in because of their appearance concerns. This, in turn, lessens a persons symptoms and frees them up to engage in other more meaningful pursuits.
I am a Clinical Psychologist in North Sydney treats BDD. Please get in contact to learn more.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
* Last updated: March 2017.