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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

What is Body Dysphoric Disorder?

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Body Dysphoric Disorder

Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder are preoccupied with what they perceive as flaws in their physical appearance. The perceived flaws are not noticeable or appear only slight to others but are seen as ugly or abnormal to the person with body dysmorphic disorder. It is not the same as the typical concerns many people have about their appearance.

Body dysmorphic disorder also involves repetitive behaviors (such as checking a mirror or seeking reassurance) or repetitive thinking (such as comparing one’s appearance with others). The preoccupations can focus on one or many body areas, most commonly the skin, hair or nose.

a person looking at her face in a mirror

The preoccupations and behaviors are intrusive, unwanted, and time-consuming (occurring, on average, three to eight hours per day). The individual feels driven to perform them and usually has difficulty resisting or controlling them. The preoccupation causes significant distress or problems in daily activities such as work or social interactions. This can range from avoiding some social situations to being completely isolated and housebound. Body dysmorphic disorder is associated with high levels of anxiety, social anxiety, social avoidance, depressed mood and low self-esteem.

Many individuals seek and too often receive cosmetic treatment, such as skin treatments or surgery, to try to fix their perceived defects. People with body dysmorphic disorder may or may not understand that their concerns about their appearance are distorted. Many individuals with body dysmorphic disorder believe that other people take special notice of them or mock them because of how they look.

a women in a white robe

It affects an estimated 2% of people. It typically begins before age 18 and affects both men and women. Body dysmorphic disorder is usually treated with a combination of cognitive behavior therapy and medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Muscle Dysphoria - subcategory of Body Dysphoria

Muscle dysmorphia, a form of body dysmorphic disorder, more common in males, consists of preoccupation with the idea that one’s body is too small or too heavy, or not muscular enough. Individuals with this form of the disorder actually have a normal-looking body or are even very muscular. A majority (but not all) diet, exercise, and/or lift weights excessively.

Source: Mayo Clinic - Body Dysphoric Disorder


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