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Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Understanding BDD – Body Dysmorphic Disorder

You may or may not be aware of what Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is, even if you suffer from it. Therefore, you must understand BDD, particularly if someone has referred for treatments. 

Not everyone seeks cosmetic therapy because of BDD, but rather they have other reasonable aesthetic motives. However, it’s common for people prone to BDD to seek cosmetic procedures to treat perceived flaws, even if these flaws are not obvious to others. 

What is BDD?

BDD is a mental health condition in which someone spends a significant amount of their time worrying about perceived flaws in their physical appearance. We use the word ‘perceived’ because often, these flaws are unnoticeable to other people.

Although BDD can affect people of all ages, it is primarily young adults and teenagers who suffer from the condition. In addition, BDD anxiety can affect both men and women.

Being Aware of BDD

Various signs might indicate if BDD is affecting you. Although not necessarily meaning you have the condition, nor are they signs of vanity, you should be aware of the following potential BDD signals:

  • Worrying obsessively about perceived flaws in your physical appearance.
  • Other people do not notice such perceived flaws.
  • Develop compulsive or excessive behaviour regarding your body image, such as:
  • Agonising about your looks.
  • Excessively using mirrors.
  • Picking skin around your perceived flaws.
  • Intrusive negative thoughts about an area of your body.

People with BDD will consider parts of their bodies disproportionate, disfigured, non-symmetrical, too large, or too small. Areas of the body that tend to cause the most anxiety include skin, lips, nose, ears, hair, and genitals. 

As well as causing considerable stress, such obsessive and compulsive behaviour can also affect your daily lifestyle. As such, BDD you can consider BDD similar to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). 

Severity of BDD

The severity of BDD depends on the person it affects. For instance, it can cause some people mild anxiety, while others will be completely debilitated. Also, the severity can similarly vary for an individual from day to day. 

Moreover, BDD can have associated effects, including the following:

  • Depression.
  • Isolation to avoid stressful situations.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Feelings of shame or guilt.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Self-harm.
  • Undergoing unnecessary or drastic cosmetic surgery.

The fear of being considered vain by others is a common reason for people not seeking help for BDD. As a result, people who have the condition can spend a considerable time dealing with it by themselves.

Causes of BDD

BDD is a complex issue, and there is no single cause of the condition. Instead, several factors contribute to your risk of experiencing BDD. Such factors include the following:

  • Being subjected to abuse or bullying.
  • Fear of isolation or being alone.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Competing with others on looks.
  • Genetics.
  • Depression.

Let’s take a look at these in some more detail.

Abuse or Bullying

Being bullied, particularly as a teenager, can lead you to develop a negative self-image. Consequently, you may become obsessed and sensitive about your appearance.

Fear of Isolation or Being Alone

Stressing about fitting in with friends or other groups can lead to thoughts linked to BDD. For instance, you might feel there is peer pressure to conform to a particular look. In addition, if a relationship breaks down, the negative thoughts you felt may get reinforced. 

Low Self-Esteem

Having low self-esteem can lead you to become fixated on perceived flaws in your appearance. It can lead to your appearance becoming the most valuable aspect of your life at the expense of more important things.

Competing With Others On Looks

Trying to achieve a perfect appearance, or judging your looks compared to others, can cause you to develop BDD. A hobby or occupation that is body or appearance-focused, such as fitness or fashion, can exacerbate the effects of BDD.


There are suggestions that genetics can play a part in BDD. However, whether BDD behaviours are passed on through genetics or by observation is challenging to understand.


If you suffer from depression or other mental health issues, you may be more prone to BDD. However, as depression is also a symptom of BDD, it is challenging to understand which triggers the other.


BDD is a complex condition that presents itself in a variety of ways. As someone who may be undergoing cosmetic surgery or procedures, or as a practitioner, it is crucial to understand BDD and its potentially devastating effects on mental health.

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