Get help now Make a donation

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Advice for friends and family on how to support someone with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

This page is for friends and family members who want to support someone with BDD.

It can be upsetting and frustrating to see a loved one's obsessive worries and compulsive behaviours affect their day-to-day life. But there are a number of things you can do to support them:

Accept their feelings

Friends and family can help a lot by accepting the feelings of the person with BDD and recognising that they find it difficult to cope with them. While you may not understand their concerns about their appearance, it's important to recognise that these feelings are very real to them. Try to avoid judging them as 'vain' or 'self-obsessed'.

Offer space to talk

It can be particularly difficult for someone experiencing BDD to acknowledge and speak about their thoughts, especially if they find them embarrassing. But speaking can be a first step in seeking help.

Help them seek treatment and support

Our page on how to support someone to seek help has lots of suggestions and tips you can try. These include emotional and practical support, what to do if someone doesn't want help, where to go in an emergency, and how to look after yourself.

Offer support with self-help

If the person with BDD is working to a self-help programme, either on their own or with a therapist, you might be able to support them with this.

Give practical support

Offering practical support can give them time to attend appointments or use self-help materials. Or you could help with childcare or household chores. Everyone's situation is different so ask them what they would find helpful.

Celebrate their successes

Stopping compulsive behaviours can be very difficult and it'll take time. Celebrating the small steps, such as spending less time grooming or carrying out fewer repetitions, can help keep your loved one motivated.

My friends and family are absolutely wonderful. Those closest have taken the time to understand the disorder and as a result they're incredibly mindful of the irrationality it can cause. They support me in every way.

Don't take it personally

It can be particularly difficult if your friend or family member's BDD means that at times they don't want to see you or they withdraw from social contact. Try to be aware that this is due to their negative feelings about their appearance rather than anything you're likely to have done.

Learn their triggers

Some people with BDD find certain situations difficult and find they can provoke more repetitive behaviour. Sometimes these situations can't be avoided. For example, seeing mirrors in shops or public toilets. But taking steps to gradually build up to the situations with them may help.

Be consistent

People with BDD may seek reassurance about the way they look. Try not to get drawn into debates about their appearance and encourage others not to do the same.

Boost their confidence

Encourage them to do the things they enjoy. Offering praise that doesn't focus on the way they look can also help to raise their self-esteem.

Get support for yourself

It can be distressing to be close to someone experiencing BDD, particularly if you're caring for them. You might find it useful to talk to other people who are in the same situation as you and to find out more about these complex problems. The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation provides information on BDD for friends and family, as well as support groups for carers.

Back of girls head as she looks out to sea

Friendship and body dysmorphic disorder

Each tiny gesture helps keep the malevolent voice in my mind at bay.

If you're the parent of a child with BDD, the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation has some useful tips on how to support them.

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

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

arrow_upwardBack to Top