You wake up in the morning and as you get dressed, you glance at yourself in the mirror and critique your body. Maybe you think your thighs are a little too big, wish your belly didn’t look bloated, or you think your lips are too thin. Slight dissatisfaction with certain parts of the body is common for many people, but for some, it’s much more extreme. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) results in obsessive negative perceptions about one’s bodily appearance that interferes with their day to day activities and affects their social and personal lives. If this sounds like something you are prone to or suffer from read on to learn more about this disorder and find out what you should do if you think you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. 

Body dysmorphia symptoms 

Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include being preoccupied with a flaw in the body that is perceived as minimal or not even observable to others. This body part can be the nose, hair, tummy, thighs or any other area of the body. People with this disorder engage in repetitive behaviors such as mirror checking, grooming, skin picking or reassurance seeking from others. They may also go to great lengths to hide or “fix” their perceived flaws through clothes or makeup and may avoid social situations as well as frequently compare themselves to others. 

The spectrum

As with many mental health disorders, BDD has some symptoms many may relate to but does not equate to having the disorder. The main difference between having BDD and having negative thoughts that can be common about your body lies in how often it occurs and how much it affects your life. A classic example is OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). People without this disorder may find themselves having certain obsessions or compulsions, but if they’re one-off occurrences or simple “quirks,” then that is not considered as having OCD. But when those obsessions and compulsions become pervasive within your life and dictate how you live then it is considered more disordered thinking and is something that requires attention. Same with BDD. 

Body dysmorphia treatment 

Body dysmorphic disorder requires treatment otherwise, it can progress to depression or anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts and actions. Because of this, it’s important to reach out to one’s primary care doctor or a mental health professional for treatment. Two common treatments are the use of medications (SSRI’s) and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy and when used together often have the greatest positive impact.

If you find that you are having disordered thinking about your body and meet some or all of the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor for help and resources.