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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a psychological condition that involves a negative preoccupation with appearance.

Individuals with BDD experience excessive shame and anxiety related to specific areas of their body, and much of their self-worth and identity is associated with their perception of their physical features. Although any area of the body can be the focus of concern, some of the most common body dysmorphic disorder obsessions include:

  • Skin tone, complexion, acne, wrinkles, pores, discoloration, or scars
  • Hair perceived as thinning, too thick, too curly, or disheveled. The hairline is also a common area of concern
  • Head and face symmetry, size or shape, and its relation to other body parts such as the forehead, ears, jawline, or cheekbones
  • Nose size, shape, or profile
  • Too much or too little facial hair
  • Size, symmetry, and shape of the eyes or eyelids, as well as concerns that the eyes are too close or too far apart from one another
  • Teeth shape, size, and color, as well as concerns about gaps between teeth
  • Any area of the body can be the focus of body image preoccupation

The majority of individuals with body dysmorphic disorder participate in ritualistic, repetitive behaviors to check, hide, or attempt to improve what they observe as an aesthetic flaw.

These repetitive and compulsive behaviors may take many hours per day and only provide temporary relief from the body related obsessions. These behaviors often include:

  • Checking the body area of concern in reflective surfaces, or, the avoidance of viewing it altogether
  • Grooming behaviors such as excessive brushing, cutting, or styling hair
  • Repeatedly touching the body part considered defective
  • Avoidance of social situations or interpersonal interactions that may expose the body area of concern to perceived scrutiny
  • Seeking reassurance that the body area appears acceptable
  • Comparing the body area of concern to that of others
  • Frequent or excessive cosmetic and dermatological procedures
  • Camouflaging the perceived imperfection with make-up, clothing, hair, hats, or altering of body posture
  • Skin picking in an attempt to improve its appearance

Most people who suffer with body dysmorphic disorder are severely distressed by what they perceive as physical defects, and as a result, their functioning and quality of life is impaired. They often suffer from major depression.

The preoccupations with a perceived or imagined flaw, also known as obsessions, are difficult to control and very time consuming. Individuals may spend many hours a day obsessing about what they consider to be a defect in their appearance. BDD also causes high levels of occupational and social disability including unemployment, absenteeism, lost productivity, and relational or marital problems. In the most severe cases, BDD may incapacitate the sufferer and keep them housebound. Research on body dysmorphic disorder has determined that suicidal ideation and suicide attempts are extremely high. Many BDD sufferers seek non-psychiatric treatment: Research estimates show that 7-15% of cosmetic surgery and 12% of dermatological patients suffer from BDD.

It has been estimated that Body Dysmorphic Disorder may be very common with a rate of 1-2% in the general population, effecting both men and women. Embarrassment and shame often prevents sufferers from revealing their true degree of distress, not only to their spouses, friends, and family, but to healthcare professionals as well. This makes BDD extremely difficult to diagnose, thus it is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some misdiagnoses include, but are not limited to, obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder.

Fortunately there is hope! With the correct treatment, many individuals with body dysmorphic disorder do recover and live a much higher quality of life. If you are seeking individual BDD therapy, please call 310-741-2000 or email:

Dual Diagnoses

The vast majority of individuals with BDD also have dual diagnoses.

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Frequently asked questions about body dysmorphic disorder and the clinic.

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