Body Image Issues

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.  In America, roughly 1 to 2 percent of the general population has Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  That’s nearly 5 million people in the United States alone (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  Although there is no known cause of body image issues, there is supposition that traumatic events during childhood and current media portrayal of beauty may play a part.  Although Body Dysmorphic Disorder is far more common in women, men can also suffer from it.

People with body image issues also have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer co-occurring feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss than their counterparts not affected by body image issues.  It is important to recognize negative body image issues and get proper medical care and mental health treatment in order to begin healing.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by constant compulsive behaviors to attempt to alleviate the anxiety the person is suffering from due to poor body image. These compulsive behaviors often include:

  • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
  • comparing body part to others’ appearance
  • seeking surgery
  • checking in a mirror
  • avoiding mirrors
  • skin picking
  • excessive grooming
  • excessive exercise
  • changing clothes excessively


Diagnosis and Treatment

For diagnosing Body Dysmorphic Disorder and related symptoms, psychological testing through Genesis Assessment Services is highly recommended.Body Dysmorphic Disorder is often treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on replacing negative thoughts/thought cycles with positive ones.  Anti-depressant medication has also been shown to give significant relief to those suffering from BDD. As with any mental illness, it is important that those suffering from BDD know that they are not alone. There are also support groups available for people who struggle with feeding or self-image.

If you or someone you love is struggling with negative body image, call Genesis today at (757) 827-7707 for more information or to set up an initial appointment!


Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Feeling Good About the Way You Look: A Program for Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Sabine Wilhelm, PhD (Guilford Press, 2006)

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Katharine Phillips, MD (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Article by Sarah Warner, M.S.