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Mental health conditions

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or BDD for short) is a common psychological condition in which a person becomes very worried about one or more features in their physical appearance. They can be anxious about the look of any part of their body e.g. nose, skin, legs or genitals. They might also worry more generally about their overall appearance rather than a specific feature. Around 1-2 in every 100 people have BDD and it affects all genders equally.

People with BDD worry much more about their appearance than the average person. They are usually preoccupied about their appearance for at least an hour a day, but can often find themselves worrying for most or all of the day. This can lead to high anxiety and low mood.


Signs and symptoms:

People with BDD will do different behaviours to fix or hide the part of their appearance that they are worried about. For example, applying lots of make-up or wearing an item of clothing to hide what they are worrying about. They may also spend hours reading about cosmetic procedures on the internet.  It’s very common for people with BDD to keep checking their appearance in mirrors (or avoid mirrors completely) and to compare themselves with their peers. They usually spend several hours every day completing BDD behaviours.

Not only does BDD lead to lots of interference in people’s social lives and everyday activities, it also takes up a lot of time. Having BDD often leads to people avoiding school or work, going to the shops, meeting up with friends or going to parties. In fact, in some cases people with BDD may find it hard to leave their home at all. When people do attend school, work or other social situations they may have trouble concentrating or enjoying themselves because their appearance worries are on their mind.


Written by Dr Sarah Lavender

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