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Mental Health and Wellbeing

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of their time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others. People of any age can be affected by this disorder although it is most common in teenagers and young adults; affecting both men and women. BDD can be upsetting to someone who is suffering from this disorder and can have a big impact on his or her daily life; it does not mean they are vain or self-obsessed.

Symptoms of BDD

A person might suffer from BDD if they:

  • Worry a lot about specific areas of their body, most common being their face.
  • Look at themselves in the mirrors a lot or try to avoid them completely
  • Pick at their skin to make it “smooth”
  • Spend a lot of time comparing their looks with others
  • Spend time trying to conceal any flaws by using make up or clothing

BDD can seriously affect all aspects of their daily life, including work, social and personal relationships. This condition can lead to depression, self-harm and even thought of suicide.

Medical Attention

If someone thinks they might be suffering from BDD, it is vital that they seek medical attention from their GP. Be aware that they will ask questions regarding a person’s symptoms and how it is affecting their daily life. Some people might find it difficult to talk about BDD but it is important to remember that this is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Getting help is more important as this can get worse without treatment. It is possible for someone to refer themselves to NHS psychological therapies without a referral from a GP.


For mild cases of BDD, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most common course of treatment, however an antidepressant medicine called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). In severe cases, both treatments could be offered at the same time. Other medications may be offered in severe cases were SSRI and CBT have not worked.

Causes of BDD

It is not known what exactly causes BDD but there are some theories that it may be associated with:

  • A chemical imbalance in the brain
  • A traumatic experience in the past. People who were bullied as a child are more likely to develop BDD
  • Genetics. People who have a relation with BDD, or a mental health disorder such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, are more likely to develop BDD

Things that can help

Some people may find that talking with others in a support group is helpful for them to understand their condition and how best to cope with it. Local GPs should know if there are any support groups in the area. BDD foundation also has a directory of local and online support.

Other mental health organisations might prove helpful: