for better mental health

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Explains what body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is, the symptoms and possible causes of BDD and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and advice for friends and family.

What is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image.

You might be given a diagnosis of BDD if you:

  • experience obsessive worries about one or more perceived flaws in your physical appearance, and the flaw cannot be seen by others or appears very slight
  • develop compulsive behaviours and routines, such as excessive use of mirrors or picking your skin, to deal with the worries you have about the way you look.

If you have BDD, these obsessions and behaviours cause emotional distress and have a significant impact on your ability to carry on with your day-to-day life. In this way, BDD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

BDD can vary in severity from person to person and from day to day. For some of us, concerns around appearance may make it difficult to go out in public or see other people. This can have an impact on our work life and relationships with other people.

"It varies day-to-day. It can sit quietly or it can be completely debilitating."

BDD may also cause other problems, such as:

Many people with BDD do not seek help because they are worried that people will judge them or think they are vain. This means that many people with BDD are likely to experience it for a long time before seeking support.

This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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