Jul 15, 2008 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: What You Should Know

Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jul 15;78(2):223-224.

See related article on body dysmorphic disorder.

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

Body dysmorphic (diss-MORE-fick) disorder (BDD) is when you can't stop thinking about a certain part of your body. You may feel like there is something wrong with this body part, even if there is not.

What are the symptoms?

You may spend a lot of time worrying about a certain part of your body. You may feel sad or hopeless a lot of the time. You may try to hide the body part you are worried about from other people. Some people with BDD avoid other people because they don't want anyone to see the body part they are worried about. This can cause problems at work or school, and in relationships.

What do people with BDD worry about?

Some people with BDD worry about a part of their face, but for others it is another part of their body. Examples of these worries are:

  • Moles or freckles are too big

  • Acne is too bad

  • Scars are too big

  • Nose is too big

  • Teeth are not straight or even

  • Too much facial or body hair

  • Too little hair on head

  • Size and shape of breasts are not right

  • Muscles are too small

What are some common behaviors?

  • Constantly looking in the mirror or reflective surfaces to check the body part

  • Avoiding mirrors

  • Avoiding having your picture taken

  • Constantly grooming (for example, tweezing, shaving, combing your hair)

  • Picking at your skin

  • Checking, touching, or measuring the body part over and over

  • Trying to hide the body part by wearing a hat, glasses, or a lot of makeup

  • Visiting skin doctors, plastic surgeons, or cosmetic dentists often

  • Having lots of medical procedures for something small

How is BDD treated?

Tell your doctor if you have any of these thoughts or behaviors. Your doctor may have you take medicines that can help. Your doctor can also help you find someone to talk with (like a therapist) who is specially trained to treat BDD. Therapists may use something called cognitive behavior therapy to help you. This is a talking therapy that helps people think about problems in a different way.

Some self-help books for BDD are:

James Claiborn and Cherry Pedrick. The BDD Workbook: Overcome Body Dysmorphic Disorder and End Body Image Obsessions. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications; 2002.

Katharine Phillips. The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2005.

Harrison Pope, Katharine Phillips, and Roberto Olivardia. The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession. New York, NY: The Free Press; 2000.

Sabine Wilhelm. Feeling Good About The Way You Look: A Program for Overcoming Body Image Problems. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2006.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

BDD Central

Web site: http://www.bddcentral.com

Los Angeles BDD Clinic

Web site: http://www.bddclinic.com


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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