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What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

Many people have concerns about how they look, but significant and persistent worry about one’s appearance may be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD centres on an individual’s belief (or felt sense) that there is something wrong with the way they look. This handout explains what BDD is, what maintains it, and what the recommended treatments are.

Information Handout

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  • English (GB)
  • English (US)

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Description

Many people have concerns about how they look, but if worrying about your appearance becomes very distressing or you can’t stop thinking about it, you may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). It’s quite a common problem: research suggests that between 1 and 3 people out of every 100 suffer from it. Fortunately, effective treatments have been developed for BDD, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)? information handout is designed to help clients with BDD understand more about their condition. It includes:

  • A summary of the most common symptoms of BDD.
  • Descriptions of what it can feel like to have BDD.
  • An explanation of why BDD might not get better by itself.
  • A brief overview of evidence-based psychological treatments for BDD.

Instructions

Our ‘What Is … ?’ series is designed to support your clients:

  • Reassure and encourage optimism. Many clients find it hugely reassuring to know there is a name for what they are experiencing, and that there are evidence-based psychological models and treatments specifically designed to help.
  • Scaffold knowledge. These handouts are perfect during early stages of therapy to help your clients understand how their symptoms fit together and make sense.
  • Signposting. If you’re just seeing a client briefly for assessment, or you have a curious client who wants to know more, these resources can be a helpful part of guiding them to the right service.

References

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
  • Baldock, E., Veale, D., & Phillips, K. A. (2017). The self as an aesthetic object: body image, beliefs about the self, and shame in a cognitive-behavioral model of body dysmorphic disorder. In: Phillips, K. A. (Ed.), Body dysmorphic disorder: Advances in Research and Clinical Practice (pp.299-312). Oxford University Press.
  • Crerand, C. E., Sarwer, D. B., & Ryan, M. (2017). Cosmetic medical and surgical treatments and body dysmorphic disorder. In Phillips, K. A. (Ed.), Body dysmorphic disorder: Advances in research and clinical practice (pp.431-448). Oxford University Press.
  • Hartmann, A. S., Buhlmann, U., & Phillips, K. A. (2017). Prevalence and under-recognition of body dysmorphic disorder. In Phillips, K. A. (Ed.), Body dysmorphic disorder: Advances in Research and Clinical Practice (pp.49-60). Oxford University Press.
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2005). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder: treatment. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg31
  • Veale, D., & Neziroglu, F. (2010). Body dysmorphic disorder: A treatment manual. John Wiley and Sons.
  • Wilhlem, S., Phillips, K., Steketee, G. (2013). A Cognitive-behavioural treatment manual for body dysmorphic disorder. Guildford.
  • World Health Organization. (2019). ICD-11: International classification of diseases (11th revision). Retrieved from https://icd.who.int/