Body Dysmorphia: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

In a world where appearances seem to take precedence in our lives, many individuals struggle with their self-image. For some, concerns about appearance can become so overwhelming that they develop a mental health condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), also known as Body Dysmorphia. Understanding this condition and its treatment is important for those affected by it, and for society as a whole to better support and reduce the stigma around mental health.

What Is Body Dysmorphia?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition where an individual becomes preoccupied excessively with flaws they perceive in their physical appearance. These flaws, as seen by the individual, can cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. BDD can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, though it often begins in adolescence.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

The symptoms of Body Dysmorphia can vary widely but generally include:

Focus on Appearance

Individuals with BDD spend an excessive amount of time thinking about their perceived flaws, which can dominate their thoughts for hours each day.

Frequent Mirror Checking or Avoidance

Some people with BDD may constantly check their appearance in the mirror. However, others may avoid mirrors altogether to prevent seeing their perceived flaws.


This involves using clothing, makeup, or other means to hide perceived defects. For example, someone might wear long sleeves to cover their arms, or heavy makeup to conceal perceived facial imperfections.

Avoidance of Social Situations

Due to embarrassment or fear of judgment, individuals may avoid social interactions, leading to isolation.

Compulsive Behaviors

These may include excessive grooming, skin picking, or seeking cosmetic procedures, often with little satisfaction or relief.

Common Areas of Concerns

While BDD can focus on any part of the body, common areas of concern include the skin (acne, scars), hair (thinning, balding), nose (size, shape), and body build (muscle size, body weight). It’s important to note that the perceived defects are often not noticeable or seen as imperfections to others. However, for individuals with BDD, they are the most prevalent.

Causes of Body Dysmorphia

The exact cause of BDD is unknown, but it is believed to result from a combination of things.


There is evidence that suggests that BDD can run in families, indicating a genetic component.

Brain Chemistry

Abnormalities in brain functioning, particularly in the areas related to processing appearance and emotions, may contribute to BDD.


Traumatic experiences, bullying, and societal pressures to achieve a certain body image can also play a significant role.

Philadelphia therapist treating body dysmorphia

How Is Body Dysmorphia Treated?

Treatment for Body Dysmorphia typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and support. The goal is to help individuals manage their symptoms, reduce distress, and improve their quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most effective treatment for BDD. It helps individuals challenge and change their thoughts and beliefs that contribute to negative perceptions about themselves. Techniques used include cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and response prevention.

Exposure and Response Prevention

This involves exposing individuals to situations that trigger their anxiety about appearance while preventing the compulsive behaviors they typically engage in to reduce that anxiety. Over time, this can help reduce the obsession with perceived flaws.

Support Groups

Joining a support group can provide individuals with a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences and coping strategies with others who have similar struggles can be very beneficial.


Learning about Body Dysmorphia and its effects can help individuals and their loved ones better understand the disorder and strategies to manage it.

Healthy Habits

Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, can also support overall mental health and well-being.

Body Dysmorphia is a disorder that goes way beyond normal concerns about appearances. It can seriously affect an individual’s quality of life, however with appropriate treatment and support, individuals can manage intense symptoms and live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives. Contact us today for more information.

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