Body Dysmorphia

Many of us will feel concerned about aspects of our appearance from time-to-time. However, the worries of people experiencing body dysmorphia are distressing and impact their ability to go about their everyday activities. The worries often focus on aspects of appearance that others wouldn’t notice or would consider minor, or on imagined flaws in appearance.

What is body dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is a clinical term for a condition where a person worries excessively about their appearance.

People of any age, gender, or sex can be affected by body dysmorphia. The focus of concern varies, but often includes skin, hair, facial features (such as the nose), or other body parts.

Prevalence of body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is considered relatively common, and both men and women can experience symptoms.

According to one study:

However, the true prevalence may be even higher. The shame associated with body dysmorphia means that some people do not discuss their concerns with a mental health professional.

Symptoms of body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia can affect people in different ways. Common signs include:

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition listed in the DSM-5; this is the manual that mental health professionals use for diagnosing mental health challenges.

It is classified in the category of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. This reflects the obsessive nature of the concern about appearance, and the often excessive compulsions that go along with BDD.

Challenges associated with body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is distressing and can affect a person’s wellbeing and quality of life in diverse ways. Some examples of associated challenges include:

What to do if you are struggling with body dysmorphia

If you are struggling with body dysmorphia, consider a combination of the following actions:

Therapy types to consider for body dysmorphia

Cognitive behavior therapy currently has the strongest evidence base for treating body dysmorphia, but you might find that another type of therapy feels like a better personal fit. Some therapy types to consider include:

What to look for in a therapist for body dysmorphia

The best-fitting type of therapist for you will depend on individual factors, symptoms, your location and finances. When selecting a mental health professional, it can be helpful to consider the following factors:

Personal fit: As is the case when you are seeking therapy for any reason, it’s important to consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Qualifications and experience: It is important to look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist you work with has undertaken the appropriate education and training. Also, ask your prospective therapist ahead of time whether they have training and experience in treating body dysmorphia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is closely related.

Talk in advance: The best way to judge how you feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This enables you to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Zencare can help you to find a therapist who is a good personal fit. You can browse the videos of our vetted therapists and book a free phone call. This can help you to figure out whether you feel comfortable discussing difficult issues with the therapist, and gives a sense of what the therapist’s approach is like.

Find the best therapists near you

Find therapists who specialize in therapy for body dysmorphia on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

Sources and references

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408651/