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Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Explains what body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is, possible causes 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. It's closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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 can't be seen by others or appears very slight
  • Develop compulsive and repetitive 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
  • Experience significant disruption to your daily life as a result of these worries and behaviours, such as avoiding social situations

BDD can vary in severity from person to person and from day to day. Worries about your appearance may make it difficult to go out in public or see other people. It can have an impact on your work life and relationships with other people.

For more detailed information on symptoms see our page on the symptoms of BDD.

I became increasingly insular and erratic, making decisions that affected my health and damaged my relationships. I'd skip school, cancel plans with friends and call in sick at work.

BDD may also cause other problems, such as:

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

My friends and family would often remind me of how beautiful I was but that never mattered. I wasn't good enough. I was trapped inside my own head, with no escape.

This information was published in July 2022. We'll revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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