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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.
No one knows exactly what causes BDD. However, recent research suggests that there are a number of different risk factors that could mean you are more likely to experience BDD, such as:
Experiencing abuse or bullying can cause you to develop a negative self-image and may lead you to have obsessions about your appearance. This is particularly true if you experience abuse or bullying when you are a teenager, when you may be more sensitive about the way you look or how your body is changing.
If you have low self-esteem, you may become fixated on aspects of your appearance that you want to improve. This is more likely if you attach a lot of importance to how you look, or if you feel your appearance is the most valuable thing about you.
If you worry about not fitting into a group of friends or being lonely, you may develop thought patterns that can lead to BDD. For example, if you believe that you need to look a certain way to maintain friends or find a partner, you may develop unhelpful concerns about your appearance. If a relationship then breaks down or a friendship group changes, this could make your concerns worse.
"There have been so many times where I have looked in the mirror and just cried. Or I've thought I looked okay but two seconds later I will feel that it is all still wrong."
If you try to appear physically 'perfect' or you regularly compare your appearance to other people, you may be more likely to develop BDD. If you have a hobby or job that is very focused on your body – for example, modelling, bodybuilding or gymnastics – you may be at greater risk.
This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
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