What You Need to Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

A person stands in front of the mirror and glances at their reflection; they perceive their image to be severely unattractive or obese.  They become obsessed with a particular body part and deem it to be an extreme defect that alters their appearance. While this is their perception, in reality no one else sees these physical characteristics.

There is a possibility that this person may be suffering from a chronic body-image disorder known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which is a compulsive obsession with an imagined or exaggerated physical trait that often no one else can see.

BDD is known to occur in both men and women and usually begins during teenage years or early adulthood.  Factors that may contribute to the development of BDD are

  • Low self-esteem
  • Traumatic events
  • Genetics
  • The influence of others who are critical of the person’s physical appearance

Characteristics of the disorder may include an obsession with skin imperfections such as scars or wrinkles, facial features (it is very common for those afflicted with BDD to be obsessed with size of the nose), body weight and hair. There are several behaviors that are identifiable with BDD, they are:

  • Constantly looking in the mirror and trying to cover up the perceived defect
  • Asking for reassurance that the defect is not obvious
  • Isolation from people due to the belief that imperfections will be noticed
  • Becoming increasingly self-conscious
  • Avoiding mirrors
  • Excessive grooming in an effort to cover up a flaw
  • Frequently consulting plastic surgeons or undergoing cosmetic procedures
  • Developing other psychological disorders such as eating and anxiety disorders

If someone you know is exhibiting these behaviors, it is recommended that they seek help immediately as this disorder can lead to self-harm. Once diagnosed with BDD, treatment will usually include a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, group or family therapy and medication. For more information about body dysmorphic disorders or treatment please contact Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry at 718-670-4416.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.