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Body Dysmorphic Disorder - Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Published on Mar 12, 2022 and last reviewed on Dec 16, 2022   -  5 min read


Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition relating to appearance. Read this article to know more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder is a disorder affecting mental health. In this disorder, the person is worried about their physical appearance too much. They are also worried about the small flaws in their appearance. Being sad about too much weight and fat is commonly seen. When this sadness becomes an obsession, then it becomes a problem. People with body dysmorphic disorder have an urge to constantly check their appearance in the mirror.

Whom Does It Affect?

Women are more concerned about their beauty. This can most commonly affect them as they might worry about their body, a scar, acne, or other skin problems, the size, and shape of their nose, breast size, or body shape. Men, too, can be affected. Bodybuilders also have a susceptibility to this disorder. It might begin during the teenage years or during the early part of adult life.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms include being highly concerned about the following:

  • Bodyweight: Such people may be obsessed with their weight or muscle tone.

  • Hair: Absence of hair in the head or body.

  • Facial Features: This involves concern about the nose, face, and ears.

  • Skin Imperfections: These include wrinkles, scars, and acne.

They may also become concerned about other areas such as the size of the penis, breasts, muscles, thighs, buttocks, and body odors.

What Are the Risk Factors?

The common risk factors are:

  • Abnormal levels of brain chemicals.

  • A family history of a person having body dysmorphic disorder.

What Are the Causes of Body Dysmorphic Functions?

Body dysmorphic functions are due to the combination of biological, neurological, environmental, and genetic factors.

The common causes of body dysmorphic disorder are:

  • Genetics.

  • Childhood trauma like teasing and bullying.

  • Body shaming by family and friends.

  • Low self-esteem.

What Are the Other Signs and Symptoms?

People with body dysmorphic disorder have absurd views about themselves. This can lead them to harmful behaviors such as repeated esthetic surgeries, extensive exercises, and abnormal diet programs. Some of the warning signs are:

  • Having a preoccupation with defects or flaws in physical appearance. This defect can appear very delicate in others’ visions.

  • Having issues at work or school and also in relationships because the person cannot stop focusing on the defect.

  • Consulting with too many medical specialists, such as plastic surgeons or dermatologists, just to find solutions to improve his or her appearance.

  • Involving in repetitive and highly time-consuming behaviors, such as looking in a mirror doing multiple activities to cover up the defects in the skin.

  • Constantly asking for reassurance that the defect is not visible or too obvious.

  • Feeling inferior and anxious around others and having difficulty socially interacting with other people.

How Is It Diagnosed?

  • People with body dysmorphic disorder require help from psychologists and psychiatrists. They diagnose this disorder according to the criteria mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5.

  • They also need help from cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists.

  • People with body dysmorphic disorder are ashamed of themselves and neglect seeking help from mental health professionals.

  • Some health professionals are not aware that such a disorder exists.

What Is a Self-Test for Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

The body dysmorphic disorder questionnaire is a good strategy to help a person identify their problem themselves. Though only a trained mental health professional can diagnose body dysmorphic disorder, this test may remain a helpful guide. After you use these tests, you can decide whether you should seek help from a psychologist. You may consider bringing your test results with you when you visit your psychiatrist so that you can discuss the test results and ask their opinion. These kinds of questionnaire tests are really helpful in creating awareness about various psychological problems. In this way, we can try to come out of the stigma society has created. Some of the psychometric tests are available online. These tests might have some disadvantages, but they are mostly accurate. They play a vital role in helping with the mental status of the individual.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Treatment options include medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is the only psychological treatment for body dysmorphic disorder. This therapy focuses on changing thoughts and behavior patterns. It will give you different perspectives on life. It also helps you gain more insight. With the help of this therapy, more positive thoughts and attitudes can be obtained. As the treatment progresses, your therapist will guide you through handling more challenging situations.

  • Medications: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are the best medications that can be given for body dysmorphic disorders. They are a type of antidepressant. The most commonly prescribed medication is Fluoxetine. The symptoms do not subside immediately. It is estimated that it can take up to 12 weeks for a person to recover from the symptoms. If you no longer have any symptoms, your doctor will advise you to stop the medications. Teenage patients will be given medications with relatively low dosages. They should be supervised by their parents. Because of the repetitive behaviors, there are chances that they might be involved in obsessive consumption of medications. This can lead to a self-harm attitude in teenagers. Therefore, medicines should be consumed only after visiting a psychiatrist.

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: It is a procedure that involves stimulating a few parts of the brain using electromagnetic fields. This technique treats different stages of depression, psychosis, anxiety disorders, and body dysmorphic disorder.

  • Other Treatment Options: If treatment with SSRI has not improved the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder even after 12 weeks, Clomipramine is also recommended for such patients. If no improvements are seen, you might require hospitalization under the doctor’s guidance.

Can Body Dysmorphic Disorder Be Prevented?

There is no exact way known to prevent body dysmorphic disorder. Educating and encouraging healthy attitudes about your body image might help the prevention of worsening habits. This can motivate you to stick to the treatment plan. The family members should be supportive of the person suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

What Is the Differential Diagnosis?

  1. OCD- obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  2. Generalized anxiety disorder.

  3. Anorexia bulimia.

  4. Social phobia.


Health-oriented consciousness is good and must. Being conscious towards one’s physical appearance indeed motivates one to be healthy but being over conscious puts one under mental stress with nil results. If you feel your appearance is breaking your mental peace, do not be embarrassed to consult a specialist online.

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Last reviewed at:
16 Dec 2022  -  5 min read




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