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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)


Sufferers of BDD tend to obsess over one or more perceived flaws in their physical appearance. These flaws often appear very slight to other people or can only be seen by the sufferer.

For those with BDD, these obsessions and behaviours can cause serious emotional distress and have a significant impact on their ability to carry on with day-to-day life.   


  • It’s estimated that one in every 100 people in the UK suffers from BDD, although it is likely much higher as most people tend to hide it.
  • The condition can start at any age, although it is most frequent in adolescence (16-18).
  • It is also more common in people with a history of depression or anxiety and may exist alongside an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.

Signs and symptoms

  • Constantly checking themselves in the mirror
  • Comparing their looks to other people all the time
  • Obsessing over their appearance or certain features
  • Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged
  • Taking an excessively long amount of time to get ready
  • Seeking medical treatment or cosmetic surgery for their perceived defect

Treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Sadly, there’s been very little research in the field of BDD, as sufferers tend to not be very open about their condition due to feeling ashamed or embarrassed. However, from the limited research that has taken place, what seems to be effective in helping to improve symptoms are the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This involves the individual working with a therapist to help change the way they think, see themselves and behave regarding their condition. There will usually be some goals – for example, one could be to stop looking in the mirror obsessively every day. Gradual exposure is another important element in treating BDD. This involves placing the individual in a situation that would normally trigger their anxiety towards the way they look, so they can start feeling more and more comfortable with being in that space and environment.
  • Medication – For BDD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) tend to be the most effective. These are an antidepressant that work to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. It’s difficult to say whether or not mental health problems are caused by a lack of serotonin in the brain, but it does appear that when the levels are increased, symptoms are reduced, which allows sufferers to engage with other forms of help, such as CBT.

There are also a number of self-help strategies to encourage if someone is struggling with BDD. These include:

  1. Growth mindset
  2. Social support
  3. Being present
  4. Practicing gratitude
  5. Diet/Exercise

If you would like to know more about these, check out our section on “Five Ways to Wellbeing”.

Further Information

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Foundation
Charity offering advice and support to sufferers of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Website: http://bddfoundation.org/

One of the largest mental health charities around. Offers extensive information and advice on a variety of mental health issues.
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Website: www.mind.org.uk

Talk Lines

Free 24hr helpline for children and young people in the UK.
Tel: 0800 1111
Website: www.childline.org.uk