Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

by Dr Emma Gray - 27th May, 2014

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health problem whereby the sufferer becomes extremely concerned with an aspect of their appearance, usually with a perceived physical flaw. Objectively the flaw is either minor or non existence but to the sufferer the flaw will feel hideous to the extent that in some cases individuals are unable to leave the house.

Sufferers often develop complicated compulsions and checking behaviours centred around the perceived physical flaw in an attempt to manage the overwhelming levels of anxiety that their perception causes, however, these behaviours (often called safety behaviours) at best provide relief only in the short term and longer term exacerbated the problem by preventing the sufferer from being able to check out the accuracy of their perceptions and by isolating them from friends and family. Common rituals or compulsions associated with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) include mirror checking, body checking, skin picking and grooming.

It is estimate that 1% of the population is effect by Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) but these figures are based on those sufferers who seek treatment so the real figure is likely to be considerably higher. Figures also suggest that more females are effected than males but again these figures are likely to be skewed as woman tend to be more inclined to seek help for mental health problems. All age group can be affected but onset of symptoms is most common in adolescence. Individuals suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder will commonly experience a range of co morbid mental health problems including anxiety, depression, eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified {EDNOS}), sleep problems, self harm and relationship problems.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a symptom of chronic low self esteem and so treatment must address both the distorted perceptions and compulsive behaviours, and the individual’s self doubt and low self worth. Evidence suggests that currently the most effective treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that helps the individual to identify the inaccurate and unhelpful thinking patterns that have led to negative feelings and the self defeating behaviours that reinforce the inaccurate and unhelpful thinking patterns. It then teaches a range of practical and psychological strategies to enable to the individual to replace unhelpful thoughts with more accurate and adaptive one and to swap self defeating behaviours for self enhancing behaviours thus elevating mood and diminishing anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is so effective for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) because it not only helps the sufferers to manage their symptoms on a day to day basis bringing relief in the short term but it enables individuals to resolve underlying core low self esteem thus ensuring that improvements are long lasting.

The Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists at The British CBT & Counselling Service are experts in treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and can provide help for sufferers within hours of them making contact. We are currently offering therapy in Clapham North (London), therapy in Clapham South (London), therapy in Fulham (London), therapy in Marylebone (London), therapy in Islington (London), therapy in Canary Wharf (London), therapy in St Margarets and Twickenham (Middx), therapy in Richmond (Surrey), therapy in West Bridgford (Nottingham).


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


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