• Conditions Treated

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a severe example of body dissatisfaction, also referred to as Imagined Ugliness. It is an extreme preoccupation with an imagined or very minor defect in appearance. Concerns about the defect can cause significant distress and problems with occupational, educational, and social functioning.

    BDD has some similarities with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Like OCD, BDD sufferers often have compulsive behaviors that are intended to temporarily reduce anxiety. For example, individuals with BDD may check their appearance by looking in mirrors to relieve fears or ask for reassurance from a loved one about their looks. Unfortunately, at best these techniques result only in short-term relief. The obsessions in BDD are centered on appearance and are generally specific, e.g. believing one has a disfiguring crooked lip, but may also be vague, for example that something is wrong with one’s face. The focus of concern is most often the face and head, but may include other body parts or body frame as a whole. The prevalence of BDD is estimated to be 1 to 2% of general population. In mental health settings the prevalence ranges from 5 to 40%, and in dermatology or cosmetic surgery settings it can range from 6 to15%.

    People with body dysmorphic disorder believe they, or parts of their bodies, are horribly ugly even though they generally look fine. Those suffering with the disorder are preoccupied with a physical “defect” so tiny most people can’t even see it.

    For most body dysmorphic disorder suffers, plastic surgery is not a viable solution; once one “defect” is repaired they become preoccupied with another. Sufferers will benefit more from mental health care treatment, in the form of medication or psychotherapy, than from cosmetic surgery.

    Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder:

    • Distressing and time consuming preoccupation with an imaginary defect
    • Shame and anxiety of a perceived defect/ugliness to the exclusion of other body parts
    • Significant distress that interferes with school, job, social, and daily life functioning
    • Intense preoccupation commonly center on highly visible areas of face: nose, chin, jaw, cheeks, as well as hands and feet. Other areas of body can also be seen as ugly, defective, or uneven.
    • Extreme measures are taken to hide or correct defect/ugliness
    • Defect is not seen or noticed by others

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder can begin as early as adolescence and is often not recognized. Children under 12 are rarely diagnosed. Treatment estimates suggest both men and women are affected equally, and that 1-2% of the adult population suffer with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Depression, Social Anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can accompany BDD.

    For more information about services we offer at St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute, please contact us at (314) 289-9411, you can also choose to complete our online inquiry form. We look forward to speaking with you.