Body Dysmorphic Disorder


Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness in which a person obsesses over a flaw, either real or imagined, in physical appearance. People with body dysmorphic disorder have a distorted view of their appearance and may take extreme measures such as cosmetic surgery to fix perceived flaws. Body dysmorphic disorder is usually diagnosed in adolescence and typically does not get better on its own. However, symptoms can often be successfully managed with therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The primary symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include a preoccupation with physical appearance and the belief that the body has a severe defect or flaw. People with this disorder often avoid social interactions, wear excessive clothing or makeup, and use cosmetic procedures but are never satisfied with the results. Other signs of the disorder include excessive grooming or exercising, checking or avoiding mirrors, and seeking reassurance about appearance. Although any part of the body can be fixated upon, the most common areas of concern are facial features, hair, skin imperfections, breasts, muscles, and genitalia. Negative feelings about appearance can interfere with daily life and may lead to eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse, and other destructive behaviors. Body dysmorphic disorder often starts in adolescence and usually does not get better with time.

Medical and psychological tests are used for diagnosis. Doctors will perform a physical exam, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation to learn about symptoms, overall health, and behavior patterns.The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used to diagnose body dysmorphic disorder. In order to receive a diagnosis, someone must be extremely preoccupied with an imagined defect or minor flaw in appearance, causing significant distress or problems with social life, work, school, or other areas of functioning.Many people with body dysmorphic disorder are not accurately diagnosed because they do not recognize that they have a problem. Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder can also resemble those of many other mental illnesses, so a correct diagnosis may take time.


The exact cause of body dysmorphic disorder is not known. Brain abnormalities, neurochemistry, and genetics are all believed to contribute to the development of the disorder. People who have another mental illness or relatives with a mental illness may be more likely to develop body dysmorphic disorder. Environment and social influences may also play a role. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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