Body dysmorphic disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don't want to be seen by anyone.
When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day. Your perceived flaw causes you significant distress, and your obsession impacts your ability to function in your daily life. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures or excessively exercise to try to "fix" your perceived flaw, but you're never satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.
Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
You may obsess over any part of your body, and the body feature you focus on may change over time. But common features people may obsess about include:
You may be so convinced about your perceived flaws that you imagine something negative about your body that's not true, no matter how much someone tries to convince you otherwise. Concern over and thinking about the perceived flaw can dominate your life, leading to absence from work, school or social situations due to extreme self-consciousness.
When to see a doctor
It's not known specifically what causes body dysmorphic disorder. Like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphic disorder may result from a combination of causes, such as:
Although the precise cause of body dysmorphic disorder isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering the condition, including:
Body dysmorphic disorder usually starts in adolescence. It affects males and females.
Complications that body dysmorphic disorder may cause or be associated with include:
Preparing for your appointment
Although you may start out talking with your health care provider about your concerns, you'll likely be referred to a mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, for evaluation and treatment.
What you can do
Don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If your doctor or mental health provider believes you may have body dysmorphic disorder or another mental illness, he or she typically runs a series of medical and psychological tests and exams to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
These exams and tests generally include:
Pinpointing which condition you have
Diagnostic criteria for body dysmorphic disorder
Symptom criteria required for a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder can be difficult, especially if you aren't a willing and active participant in your care. But treatment can be successful. The two main treatments for body dysmorphic disorder are cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. Often, treatment involves a combination of these.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
You and your therapist can talk about which type of therapy is best for you, your goals for therapy, and other issues, such as the number of sessions and the length of treatment.
Lifestyle and home remedies
In most cases, body dysmorphic disorder is difficult to treat without professional help. But you can do some things for yourself that will build on your treatment plan, such as:
Coping and support
Coping with body dysmorphic disorder can be challenging. Talk with your doctor or therapist about improving your coping skills, and ways to focus on identifying, monitoring and changing the negative thoughts about your appearance.
Consider these tips to help cope with body dysmorphic disorder:
There's no known way to prevent body dysmorphic disorder. However, because body dysmorphic disorder often starts in adolescence, identifying children at risk of the condition and starting treatment early may be of some benefit. And long-term maintenance treatment also may help prevent a relapse of body dysmorphic disorder symptoms.
Last Updated: 2013-05-09
© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use