Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?


Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder involves a preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in an individual’s physical appearance. These perceived flaws are not observable or are very minor but a person will still spend a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance.

A person with Body Dysmorphic Disorder is extremely body conscious. Their behaviour may involve repeatedly checking in the mirror, excessive grooming, skin picking or seeking reassurance in order to feel comfort regarding their appearance concerns.

BDD and low self-esteem

People who have Body Dysmorphic Disorder tend to have low self-esteem as well. Some people become obsessive about cosmetic surgery and are unable to distinguish when their behaviour becomes unhealthy. They never feel at ease in their own bodies and find it difficult to accept themselves.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder can limit those suffering from it when it comes to finding a partner as they tend to overestimate the importance of their appearance in social acceptance. At the same time, they often underestimate their positive attributes. Any negative characteristics are magnified.

As such they have a distorted view of their appearance and this affects their mental health causing anxiety and/or depression.

Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

There is still much debate about the causes and it’s likely that it is caused by a combination of factors – both genetic and environmental.

One theory suggests that there are problems with certain neurotransmitters (chemicals that help nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other). Body dysmorphic disorder often occurs in people with other mental health disorders, such as major depression and anxiety, which helps support this theory.

Other factors that might influence the development of or trigger body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Experience of traumatic events or emotional conflict during childhood.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Parents and others who were critical of the person’s appearance.
  • Pressure from peers and a society that equates physical appearance with beauty and value.

Symptoms of BDD:


Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  •  A strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Beliefs that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engagement in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming, or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding social situations

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Cognitive behavioural therapy works really well when it comes to treating body dysmorphic disorder. CBT helps to challenge faulty assumptions and replace negative thoughts with more healthy thinking. Body dysmorphic disorder is quite common and seems to be a growing phenomenon.

Do not become disheartened – there is always hope. Seek professional help if the problem persists.

Mandy X