Body Dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphia: Signs and Symptoms


Sep 22, 2023

Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) is experienced by more than one in 20 teenage girls around the ages of 17 to 19 years old. Stereotypically, the common assumption is that body dysmorphia only impacts those of a younger age and predominantly girls - this assumption is far from the truth. BDD impacts around 1 or 2 in every 100 people.

This disorder can impact anyone at any age, and of any gender. Body dysmorphia has no prejudice.

Head Agenda has put together a full guide on body dysmorphia. Together we will go through what body dysmorphia is, as well as the symptoms, to determine whether it is something you can relate to.

We will then go through some ways of dealing and coping with BDD. You are not alone and there is support available to help you overcome this condition.

Head Agenda is with you every step of the way.

What is body dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) can be explained as an overwhelming worry of one’s own appearance. It may not be noticed by others but can be disruptive to somebody’s everyday life.

Body dysmorphia symptoms

If you have body dysmorphia, symptoms that you may be experiencing include the following:

  • Extreme worry or obsessive concern over the whole, or a particular part, of your body.
  • Comparing yourself with how you look to others.
  • Either looking too much in the mirror analysing yourself, or avoiding mirrors altogether.
  • Avoiding pictures, especially in social settings or simply not wanting to go out of your home.
  • Going to extreme levels to conceal your “flaws”, such as putting a lot of makeup on to change the look of your face, or spending a long time perfecting your hair.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Overeating.
  • Seeking to undergo cosmetic procedures and still being unsatisfied.

However, these symptoms can also lead to more serious issues too, such as self-harming or even thoughts of suicide. In fact, research shows one in four people with BDD have attempted suicide.

If you are self-harming, please contact your GP. If you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or attempting suicide, please call 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258 for 24 hour support from Samaritans.

What can body dysmorphia lead to?

It is common for body dysmorphia to lead to eating disorders including:

  • Binge eating
  • Bulimia
  • Anorexia

The above are only a few of the mental health disorders that BDD can lead to, yet anyone can experience BDD with different illnesses in different ways.

Body dysmorphia can also usually to lead to other mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

lf you are suffering from anxiety and depression, visit our anxiety and depression service pages to see what help we can offer.

But where does body dysmorphia come from?

What causes body dysmorphia?

The exact cause of body dysmorphia cannot be pinpointed as people could develop the condition for different reasons. These reasons include:

Social media

Countless research has shown that social media has led to goals of unrealistic body image ideals. Social media has fashioned an ideal beauty standard constructed by filters, surgical body modifications only achievable by plastic surgery, AI, apps, and heavy makeup that do not match what people really look like in the real world. These ideals are generally unachievable naturally, by exercise and diet alone. These images have then been glorified turning it into the ideal standard of beauty.

This unrealistic representation of beauty has led to the development of insecurities and social comparisons. Consequently, formulating the path to negative self-image perceptions and low self-esteem leading to disorders like body dysmorphia.

Traumatic events/ experiences – Bullying/abuse

It is common for a traumatic experience, such as bullying or abuse, to impact the way you think about self-image. These experiences of trauma can turn into feelings of shame, embarrassment and create a fixation over perceived flaws that were used against you from your traumatic experience. These can then manifest through BDD by creating dissatisfaction with self-image.


Studies have shown that those whose family have BDD, are more likely to develop BDD. However, there are still discussions over whether the cause is due to biological factors or environmental with BDD being learnt from family behaviours. For example, if your parents or family display body dysmorphic symptoms, you may learn from them how you should feel about yourself or certain features of your body.


Often within the modelling or fitness industry, such as personal training and body building, your career can have a huge impact on the pressure of needing to look in peak condition. Due to your body and physical appearance being the face of your brand, there is a pressure to look “perfect” so viewers buy into your brand. This pressure can intensify and can build up, leading to BDD.

How to deal with body dysmorphia

Now that we know the what and the why of body dysmorphia, how do you deal with it?


When going to the GP, one method of treatment is usually medication using SSRIs. SSRIs are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. This medication works by increasing serotonin (happy hormone) in the brain. This method of treatment won’t work instantly but will come into effect in around 2-4 weeks.

However, with any medication there are side effects and the risk of becoming addicted.


Alternative methods that don’t require medication include talking therapies like CBT. This involves talking through, understanding, and challenging the negative thoughts that come with having body dysmorphia. Through this, CBT can work towards changing your perception of self-image, learning to love yourself and creating a positive outlook on how you feel about your body.

Here at Head Agenda, we offer CBT treatments tailored to you and your individual experience with body dysmorphia. For more information, visit our CBT page.

Get help for body dysmorphia

Sometimes body dysmorphia stems from deep rooted mental illnesses. However, here at Head Agenda, our expert, registered therapists specialise in helping you work through and overcome these mental health problems. For more information on how we can support your journey to overcoming body dysmorphia, view our services page where you can see the services we offer and how we can help including tackling illnesses such as:




For any further queries or questions, feel free to contact us here.

To enquire directly about receiving CBT for body dysmorphia, click the button below:

Disclaimer: This article has been designed for entertainment and informational purposes; it is not personalised medical advice. This guide may be a useful read to generate some ideas, however, please take advice from a medical professional.

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