What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)/Body Dysmorphia?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), also known as body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition in which a person develops a distressing or impairing preoccupation with presumed physical flaws. The perceived defects can be small or hardly noticeable by others. Body dysmorphia is disruptive and can completely debilitate an individual’s ability to function, especially when it is present along with addiction.

Body dysmorphia was considered rare until recently. Today, the disorder affects about 10 million people in the US and is more prevalent than schizophrenia or anorexia nervosa. The disease’s actual cause is unknown, but a combination of risk factors plays a role in its development. BDD risks range from environmental, psychological, to biological conditions.

Possible causes of BDD include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Critical parents
  • Experience of traumatic events
  • Societal pressures
  • Personality type

Actions or experiences that create consistent feelings of inadequacy and shame during childhood are correlated to body dysmorphia.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through BetterHelp links.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


Signs And Symptoms Of Body Dysmorphia (BDD)

The onset of the disease typically begins in adolescence and affects men and women equally. As BDD progresses, the development of one or more body-focused repetitive behaviors or mental acts is common. The actions can be compulsive and irrational, but they are always in response to physical appearance.

Common symptoms and warning signs of BDD include:

  • Hair pulling
  • Skin picking
  • Scratching
  • Carving
  • Excessive grooming
  • Mirror checking
  • Nail-biting
  • Cheek-biting
  • Reassurance seeking
  • Touching the perceived defect
  • Avoiding mirrors
  • Constant comparisons to others
  • Measuring flaws
  • Expressing hatred, disgust, or general dissatisfaction with their appearance
  • Minimizing contact with others
  • Exuberant amounts of money spent on cosmetic surgery, beauty products, and grooming products

People suffering from BDD may show a combination of different behaviors at a varied frequency. To cope with these habits, many self-medicate and develop a substance abuse disorder (SUD).

Addiction And Body Dysmorphia (BDD)

Like heart disease and cancer, addiction is an illness that can affect anyone. People with body dysmorphia have a higher risk of developing an SUD. Many choose to self-medicate as a way to deal with their emotional distress which can lead to drug abuse. The US National Library of Medicine found that SUDs are 2% to 13% more likely in individuals with BDD. Researchers also discovered that 68% of subjects suffering from addiction reported that BDD contributed to their dependency.

Body Dysmorphia (BDD), Bodybuilding, And Steroids Misuse

Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder (MDD) is a type of BDD where the individual focuses on the belief that they are not muscular or lean enough. This form of BDD is common in sports wrestling, health clubs, and bodybuilding gyms. A person who practices “normal” bodybuilding does not necessarily have a distorted body image. It is common for people affected with MDD to take supplements to achieve their desired look. Once regular supplements stop “working,” many begin to misuse anabolic steroids or growth hormones. Research estimates about 3 million people habitually misuse steroids. The number of chronic steroids and growth hormones users in American gyms is between 15-30%.

Use Of Cocaine To Suppress Appetite

Cocaine is an appetite suppressant. For people suffering from body dysmorphia, cocaine dependency is a common way users achieve and maintain their extreme weight loss goals. Chronic cocaine abuse disrupts a user’s metabolic processes, resulting in weight loss caused by a lack of fat intake and storage. The metabolic imbalance can also lead to a dysfunction in fat regulation. During cocaine addiction treatment, the sudden weight gain due to the body’s fat regulation’s malfunction can cause intense distress and lead to a recovering user’s relapse.

Hallucinogens And Body Dysmorphia

People suffering from body dysmorphia can become addicted to hallucinogens. By ingesting psilocybin mushrooms (shrooms) or LSD, users can ease their image distortion symptoms. As a result, people with BDD who view themselves as “ugly” are at a risk of becoming addicted to hallucinogens. Hallucinogens provide users dealing with BDD an escape from their destructive thoughts.

Treatment For Body Dysmorphia (BDD) And Addiction

Regardless of how many risk factors are present, treatment is still possible for a person afflicted with BDD and addiction. An individual’s past or high-risk probability does not determine their future. Treatment varies based on an individual’s needs and their healthcare provider’s recommendations. Typical goals include detoxing the body, correcting an individual’s false beliefs about themselves, and minimizing compulsive behavior.

There are many forms of treatment available, but usual treatments for BDD include:

Successful treatment results often occur with a combination of talk therapies and medications. When seeking treatment, individuals can opt for inpatient or outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities provide patients medical supervision, medication, and access to support groups. Outpatient rehab offers counseling and other programs on a less restricted scheduled. Inpatient rehab is an amazing option for people ready to invest time and effort into recovery. Outpatient rehab is an excellent option for people interested in maintaining their regular schedule. When choosing between the two, it can be important to note that outpatient treatment typically has a lower success rate than inpatient rehab, but one’s ability to “succeed” at recovery is based on their level of motivation.

Get Help For BDD And Addiction Now

The first step towards recovery is acknowledging the need for help. With aid from licensed treatment professionals, you can start focusing on recovery from BDD and addiction. For information on online therapy options, click here.