What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

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  • Written By: J.Gunsch
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
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Most people are concerned with their appearance to some extent, but a person who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder is negatively preoccupied with their appearance, specifically with a particular body part that they believe is extremely flawed. This disorder is a painful mental illness that can interfere with social functioning, self esteem and financial security.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition in which a person obsesses over a serious, perceived flaw, which in reality is either non existent or very minor. Any part of the body is open for criticism, but the most common flaws are found in the hair, nose, eyes, legs and knees. A debilitating disease, this condition can cause people to fear social gatherings and even prevent them from leaving their homes. These people are certain that they are so ugly or deformed that no one will want to see or talk to them.

Some people with body dysmorphic disorder seek plastic surgery or interventions from a dermatologist. Decent surgeons and dermatologists will recognize when a person is suffering from this disorder and refer him or her to a psychologist. People with this condition are so obsessed with their appearance, however, that they usually find someone to perform the work. Unfortunately, a surgical or dermatological procedure does not solve the problem or flaw. The sufferer will still be extremely unhappy and obsessed even after the correction.


Body dysmorphic disorder is closely related to and often occurs with a mental illness called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This disorder is marked by irrational obsessive thoughts paired with compulsive behaviors such as repetitive hand washing. Like OCD, this condition causes the sufferer to irrationally obsesses over a flaw and compulsively "mirror check" or seek plastic surgery.

A person with body dysmorphic disorder typically seeks constant reassurance from others that their perceived flaw is not that bad. They also seek self reassurance through constant mirror checking. At times they will appear to themselves to look normal, but at others, terribly deformed. Reassurance and changing self perceptions cause an intense emotional roller coaster which often leads to depression.

Psychologists classify a person as having this disorder when the above symptoms are so severe that a person will avoid social interaction, occupational or educational responsibilities, and engage in repeated plastic surgery. Body dysmorphic disorder can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, people rarely seek treatment because they truly believe that their problem is physical rather than psychological. Some who recognize their condition are ashamed or embarrassed and choose to suffer in silence.



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