Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Statistics, Causes, Signs, & Symptoms

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Education is an essential first step in the effort to heal from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). If you are struggling with body image distortion, understanding the effects, symptoms, and signs of body dysmorphic disorder can help you determine when to seek the support of a professional.

At The Refuge, A Healing Place in Ocklawaha, Florida, we provide clinically excellent services for those who are struggling with BDD to help them improve their self-worth and get on a path to better health.

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

BDD, which is also known as body dysmorphia, is a serious mental health concern that is characterized by obsessive negative thoughts about one’s physical appearance. People who develop BDD may become intensely preoccupied with flaws or defects that are not seen by others.


While it’s not uncommon for someone to have insecurities about certain aspects of their physical appearance, the signs and symptoms of BDD extend far beyond occasional feelings of self-doubt. Misperceptions about body features, or body image distortion, can be so severe for those who have BDD that they become convinced that their appearance is abnormal.


According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), people who have BDD spend an average of three to eight hours every day dealing with intrusive negative thoughts about their body shape, size, or appearance. These obsessive thoughts can push people to engage in a variety of unpleasant or self-defeating behaviors.


For example, people who have BDD may feel the urge to constantly check their appearance in mirrors or other reflective surfaces and may be compelled to compare their appearance with that of everyone they meet or see. They may engage in excessive grooming habits, exercising, tanning, or other actions. They may even choose to undergo multiple cosmetic medical procedures.


The nature of severe body image distortion means that none of these behaviors will allow a person to experience relief from their continual negative thought patterns. The constant distress caused by having a distorted body image can take a heavy toll on interpersonal relationships and may even lead to avoidance of social situations.


To overcome their negative thoughts and end their dangerous behaviors, people who struggle with BDD need effective professional care. BDD is a treatable mental health condition. With the right type and level of help, those who are struggling with a distorted body image can live healthier and happier lives.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Statistics

The following statistics about BDD in the United States are from studies that were published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is a component of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Causes of & Risk Factors for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Experts believe that a person’s risk for BDD may be influenced by a combination of complex genetic and environmental factors, including: 

  • Having a parent or sibling who suffers from BDD or other types of mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 
  • Being a victim of abuse or neglect during childhood 
  • Age (the median age for onset of symptoms is 15; about 67% of people who suffer from BDD show symptoms of body image distortion by age 18) 

Signs & Symptoms

Body dysmorphic disorder signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. BDD can cause people to experience considerable emotional distress and act in ways that endanger their health and well-being. The following are examples of signs and symptoms of BDD that may indicate that a person is struggling with body dysmorphic disorder: 

Behavioral BDD symptoms: 

  • Constantly checking one’s appearance in mirrors 
  • Compulsively picking at skin 
  • Excessive personal grooming 
  • Excessive weightlifting or other forms of exercise 
  • Abusing steroids 
  • Overuse of makeup 
  • Persistent negative comments about one’s own appearance 
  • Seeking reassurance from others  
  • Seeking cosmetic medical procedures to “fix” perceived physical flaws 
  • Expressing dissatisfaction with the results of prior cosmetic procedures 
  • Frequently changing clothes in an attempt to improve appearance 
  • Social withdrawal 

Physical BDD symptoms: 

  • Damage to the skin due to compulsive picking 
  • Muscle damage due to excessive weightlifting 
  • Distorted body image 

Mental BDD symptoms: 

  • Obsessive comparisons of personal appearance with that of others 
  • Preoccupation with flaws in appearance that are not obvious to others 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Pervasive sense of shame 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Neuroticism 
  • Delusions 

Potential Effects of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Severe body image distortion can have a profound negative impact on virtually all parts of your life. When a person who is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of BDD does not seek professional help, they may be at greater risk for the following outcomes: 

  • Strained or ruined friendships 
  • Family conflict 
  • Disrupted romantic relationships 
  • Diminished academic performance 
  • Dropping out of or withdrawing from school 
  • Substandard performance at work 
  • Employment problems 
  • Financial difficulties 
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health disorders 
  • Substance abuse and addiction 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends 
  • Social isolation 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Suicide 

It is important to understand that the effects listed above can be avoided. When you choose to receive appropriate care for body dysmorphic disorder, you can protect yourself from future harm and begin to heal from past damage. At The Refuge, A Healing Place, we deliver the highest quality of services for those who are battling severe body image distortion. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

People who have body dysmorphic disorder may also have an increased risk for developing additional mental health concerns, including: 

  • Major depressive disorder 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Social anxiety disorder 
  • Substance use disorders 
  • OCD 


This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at The Refuge, A Healing Place.

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