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Body Dysmorphic Disorder


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Reviewed/Revised May 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
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What is body dysmorphic disorder?

"Dysmorphia" means deformity or abnormality in the shape or size of a body part.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder where you spend a lot of time and energy worrying about and disliking how you look despite having a normal body. People with this disorder may focus on the size or appearance of a certain body part, such as their nose. The worries about the body part make no sense to friends and loved ones and interfere with daily life.

  • People with body dysmorphic disorder may spend hours a day worrying about perceived flaws in their body, though these problems seem minor or invisible to other people

  • You may think that parts of your body are ugly, unattractive, or deformed

  • You may feel so ashamed and anxious about how you look that you avoid going out or spending time with friends

  • Doctors treat body dysmorphic disorder with antidepressant medicines and cognitive-behavioral therapy

The disorder usually begins during adolescence and may be somewhat more common among women.

What are the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder?

Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder can start slowly or come on suddenly. Symptoms include:

  • Spending hours a day worrying about perceived body defects

  • Checking yourself in mirrors constantly

  • Constant, excessive grooming or skin picking

  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you

  • Seeking frequent plastic surgery with little satisfaction

  • Avoiding social situations so other people don't see you

  • Being so preoccupied with your appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, school, or other areas

The body part that you focus on may change over time. People with body dysmorphic disorder often focus on:

  • Face and skin

  • Hair

  • Muscle size and tone

How can doctors tell if I have body dysmorphic disorder?

Many people worry a little about how they look. Doctors diagnose you with body dysmorphic disorder only if your worries about your appearance:

  • Make you very upset

  • Take up a lot of time

  • Cause problems in your daily life

Many people with body dysmorphic disorder are ashamed to tell their doctors about their concerns or don't think their worries are a problem. As a result, the disorder can be hidden for years.

How do doctors treat body dysmorphic disorder?

Doctors treat body dysmorphic disorder using one or more of the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy—this helps people think about their appearance more accurately

  • Habit reversal therapy—this helps people stop repeating actions such as skin picking

  • Antidepressant medicines

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