Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.

People of any age can have BDD, but it is most common in teenagers and young adults. It affects both men and women.

Having BDD does not mean you are vain or self-obsessed. It can be very upsetting and have a big impact on your life.

You might have BDD if you:

  • worry a lot about a specific area of your body (particularly your face)
  • spend a lot of time comparing your looks with other people's
  • look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
  • go to a lot of effort to conceal flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
  • pick at your skin to make it "smooth"

 

What should you do if you think that you, or someone you know, has BDD?

The first and most important thing to do is talk to your GP. They will ask you a number of questions about your symptoms and how it is affecting your life. 

It can be difficult to ask for help, but it’s really important that you do as it’s unlikely that your symptoms will get better or go away without treatment.

What causes BDD?

We don't know exactly what causes BDD, but it might be associated with:

  • genetics – you may be more likely to develop BDD if you have a relative with BDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression
  • a chemical imbalance in the brain
  • a traumatic experience in the past – you may be more likely to develop BDD if you were teased, bullied or abused when you were a child

Some people with BDD also have another mental health condition, such as OCD, generalised anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.

Resources

The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation website has lots of useful information and resources available, including a directory of local and online support groups, to help you. 

A number of other organisations have also published information about BDD that you may find helpful: