What is body dysmorphic disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others. But you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.

When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely focus on your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day. Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life.

What are the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder?

Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Avoiding social situations

Preoccupation with your appearance, excessive focus over one or more parts of your body and excessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors can be unwanted, difficult to control and so time-consuming that they can cause major distress or problems in your social life, work, school or other areas of functioning.

How is body dysmorphic disorder treated?

Following a thorough psychiatric evaluation, a Remedy psychiatric provider will create an individualized treatment plan for each patient with body dysmorphic disorder as every patient has a unique experience and specific needs to be addressed. The prescribed treatment plan will depend on the patient, the severity of the disorder, and how he or she is currently responding to therapy or medication. Although there are no medications specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat body dysmorphic disorder, medications used to treat other mental health conditions ― such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder ― can be effective.