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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by a relentless preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in one's appearance, often minor or imagined.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by a relentless preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in one’s appearance, often minor or imagined. In the delusional form of BDD, the flaw is nonexistent, or imagined, but when a defect exists, it’s magnified in the mind of the individual.

This preoccupation transcends normal concerns about physical appearance, spiraling into obsessive thoughts that can consume a person’s consciousness. Individuals with BDD engage in repetitive behaviors, such as excessive grooming, mirror checking, or seeking reassurance, as a means of alleviating the distress caused by their perceived flaws.

To fulfill diagnostic criteria, an individual must, at some stage of the illness, involve themselves in repetitive actions. These may include excessive mirror checking, camouflaging (covering perceived defects with makeup or clothing), skin picking, extensive grooming, weight lifting, or pervasive mental activities like comparing one’s appearance to others. These behaviors are typically time-consuming, challenging to manage, and distressing to the individual. On average, these actions persist for approximately 3 to 8 hours per day.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely recognized as the gold standard treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists are skilled in utilizing CBT techniques tailored specifically for BDD.

Through CBT, individuals with BDD learn to challenge and modify distorted beliefs and perceptions about their appearance. Techniques such as cognitive restructuring help clients identify and challenge negative thought patterns related to their perceived flaws, while exposure and response prevention (ERP) exercises gradually expose clients to anxiety-provoking situations related to their appearance concerns.

By addressing both the cognitive and behavioral aspects of BDD, CBT empowers clients to develop healthier coping strategies, improve their self-esteem, and reduce the distress associated with their body image concerns.


Medication can play a supportive role in managing symptoms and enhancing the effectiveness of CBT for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft), are commonly prescribed to reduce obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors associated with BDD.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms.

Integrating CBT + Medication

At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that combine evidence-based therapy with medication management to address both the psychological and physiological aspects of BDD.

Our therapists and psychiatric providers work collaboratively to tailor treatment plans to each individual’s needs and preferences.

  • CBT helps clients challenge distorted beliefs and develop healthier coping strategies.
  • Medication can provide additional support by reducing obsessive thoughts and anxiety symptoms and enhancing the effectiveness of therapy.

Through this combined approach, we empower our clients to overcome BDD and achieve greater self-acceptance and well-being

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Body Dysmorphic Disorder Entails:

  1. Collaborative Treatment Planning: Our experienced team works collaboratively to create an individualized treatment plan that assists you in meeting your treatment goals as effectively and rapidly as possible.  
  2. Patient Empowerment: We believe in empowering you with comprehensive information about Body Dysmorphic Disorder treatment options, allowing you to make informed decisions about your treatment journey. 
  3. Monitoring Progress: Regular monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan are made based on your response and progress. This ensures you are obtaining maximum benefits from the time and energy you are putting into the Body Dysmorphic Disorder treatment process.  
  4. Ongoing Support:  We offer ongoing support and adjustments to your treatment plan as needed, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to your path to healing.

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is characterized by a preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in physical appearance, leading to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Thoroughly explained, the symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder encompass various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects:

Individuals with BDD experience persistent and intrusive thoughts about perceived flaws in their appearance. These thoughts are distressing, difficult to control, and often dominate the individual’s mental space throughout the day.
There is a marked discrepancy between the individual’s perceived appearance and how others see them. The perceived flaws are often exaggerated or may even be entirely imagined, contributing to the distorted self-image characteristic of BDD.
Individuals engage in repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to their perceived flaws. Common compulsive behaviors include excessive grooming, mirror checking, seeking reassurance, or comparing oneself to others.
Due to heightened self-consciousness, individuals with BDD may avoid social situations or isolate themselves to prevent others from noticing their perceived flaws. This avoidance behavior can lead to significant impairment in relationships and social functioning.
BDD can interfere with various aspects of daily life, including work, school, or daily routines. Individuals may spend extensive amounts of time on their perceived flaws, impacting productivity and overall quality of life.
The relentless preoccupation with perceived flaws often leads to comorbid depression and anxiety. Individuals may experience intense sadness, hopelessness, and heightened anxiety related to their appearance.
Individuals with BDD may excessively compare their appearance to others, focusing on perceived ideal standards of beauty. This constant comparison reinforces their negative self-image and intensifies the distress associated with their perceived flaws.

Some individuals with BDD seek frequent and unnecessary medical interventions, such as cosmetic surgery, to correct perceived flaws. However, these interventions rarely provide relief, and individuals may become fixated on new or additional flaws.

FAQs about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can have various causes, including genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors. A combination of these elements may contribute to distorted body image and obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws. Societal pressures, traumatic experiences, and a history of critical comments about appearance can also play a role in the development of BDD.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is characterized by obsessive concerns about perceived flaws in physical appearance, leading to significant distress and impaired functioning. Symptoms include excessive grooming, checking mirrors excessively, seeking reassurance about appearance, and avoiding social situations. Individuals may undergo frequent cosmetic procedures. BDD often coexists with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Despite these obsessive behaviors, individuals struggle to see their appearance objectively. It can significantly impact daily life, causing distress and impaired quality of life, highlighting the importance of early recognition and intervention through therapy and sometimes medication.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background. It often begins in adolescence, but onset can occur at any stage of life. Both men and women can experience BDD, though it may be underreported in men. Those with a family history of BDD are at a higher risk.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in physical appearance, leading to significant distress and impaired daily functioning. It falls under the category of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

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