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Practical Steps to Manage Body Dysmorphia

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9 min

Practical Steps to Manage Body Dysmorphia

Sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, fast breathing. “Bold Glamour” or “Clean Girl Make Up”? The question hangs heavy, your finger poised over the screen. A click and instant transformation! Beauty, time to gather likes.

But the mirror reflects a bittersweet smile. This flawless visage, is it… me?

No, it’s not just you. We see it everywhere. Perfect faces, sculpted bodies, airbrushed into oblivion. “Just a little tweak here, a lift there,” they say. “Oh, wait, bad skin day? No worries, a filter will make it disappear, and you’ll be flawless, too.”

That’s how plastic surgery became a new hot trend and filters areas an extension of our faces.

But something’s off here. Behind the edits and endless body modification, there is a dangerous reality: we’re feeling less attractive than ever. 

So, is this a real beauty or a recipe for body dysmorphia? Grab your mugs. Serious talk is coming.

What is Body Dysmorphia

We all have those days when we look in the mirror and feel less than stellar. We could fixate on a perceived flaw, feeling unattractive, weird, or different, even if others didn’t bat an eye.

But for some guys, these thoughts become overwhelming and constant, and that’s where body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) comes in.

Body dysmorphia is a mental condition where people often feel trapped in a cycle of obsessive thoughts about perceived flaws, causing emotional pain and affecting their daily lives.

There are two types of body dysmorphia (also dysmorphophobia):

  • Muscle Dysmorphia: You think you’re not muscular enough, even if you’re actually pretty buff. 
  • BDD by Proxy: You worry way too much about someone else’s looks, like your kid or partner, thinking they have flaws even if they don’t. It’s like their appearance becomes your biggest concern.

Talking about stats, overall, around 2 per 100 people across all ages, genders, and backgrounds experience struggles with dysmorphophobia. That’s quite a lot. Also, research suggests a significant rise in BDD cases, particularly among young adults in Gen Z.

Many celebs struggle with body dysmorphic disorder, too, including Billie Eilish, Robert Pattinson, Demi Lovato, Megan Fox, and Priyanka Chopra. They have spoken openly about their experiences with this disorder.

For example, Riverdale actress Lili Reinhart, who also struggles with body dysmorphia, shared worries about her arm size on X (prev. Twitter): “I wish there were more average-sized arms represented… My body dysmorphia has been going crazy…”

So it’s not about vanity or looking perfect. It’s about intrusive thoughts and distorted beliefs that cause real emotional suffering.

Body dysphoria vs. body dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a complex mental illness that sometimes mistakenly gets mixed with body dysphoria.

What is the meaning of body dysphoria? Well, it’s an uncomfortable or unhappy feeling when someone’s inner sense of gender doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. It can be related to a person’s body but not to perceived concerns.

And what is a body dysmorphic disorder? It’s a mental health condition when people get stuck on flaws in their appearance, even if they’re tiny or invisible to others. Imagine constantly obsessing over a minor blemish only you perceive, such as acne, head size, crooked teeth, or bigger arms. Additionally, compulsively checking your face can be a sign of facial dysmorphia, a subtype of BDD.

Okay, we understand the meaning of body dysmorphia now. But what’s causing this? One reason might be social media. It shows pictures of people who look “perfect,” which can make anyone feel bad about their own body.

Are there more reasons? Let’s have a detailed look.

What causes body dysmorphia

Though experts haven’t found the exact cause of BDD, some things seem to be linked to it:

  • Family history: Having a family with BDD might raise your risk.
  • Brain wiring: Imbalances in certain brain chemicals could be involved.
  • Life experiences: Tough times like bullying, abuse, neglect, or childhood trauma can make you focus on perceived flaws.
  • Thinking patterns: Low self-esteem, perfectionism, and anxiety can worsen body dysmorphia.
  • Societal pressure: Seeing unrealistic beauty standards everywhere can fuel the fire.

It’s important to note that people with body dysmorphic disorder may also struggle with other mental health conditions, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating disorders.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia 

It’s clear with causes, but how to define body dysmorphia? Let’s explore the main symptoms of BDD. There is a wide range of them, so I have split it into sections for easier understanding.


  • Fixating on a flaw, even if it is small (“large” nose, “thin” lips, “wide” jaw, too many visible veins, etc.)
  • Comparing yourself to others, feeling worse (scrolling through socials, looking at models and celebs with unrealistic beauty standards)
  • Checking mirrors frequently (scanning for a “flaw”) or avoiding them because of fear of self-perception.


  • Trying to “fix” the flaw (altering makeup tones, wearing specific clothes, having cosmetic surgeries, etc.).
  • Seeking constant reassurance (asking for compliments even if they don’t help much).
  • Repetitive actions in BDD (picking at your skin, excessive grooming rituals, checking your weight).


  • Shame, anxiety, and low self-esteem can also be signs of body dysmorphia.
  • You are avoiding social situations, fearing judgment.
  • Struggling with work, toxic relationships, or overall well-being.

Remember, every person’s experience is unique. If you’re struggling, please consider reaching out for professional help. Therapists and mental health professionals can offer specific guidance and support. 

Also, you can try the Breeze. Our bite-sized courses and in-depth tests will help you better understand yourself and improve your emotional state.

looking at yourself with body dysmorphia

How to know if you have body dysmorphia

First of all, talk to a doctor or therapist. They can assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan for body dysmorphia. It’s important to remember that only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose BDD. 

The next thing you can do is educate yourself about body dysmorphic disorder. Learning more about the condition can help you understand what you’re experiencing and feel less alone.

Here are some additional resources for body dysmorphia that you may find helpful:

  • The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation: This website offers information about BDD, including symptoms, causes, treatment options, and personal stories.
  • The International OCD Foundation: The BDD Program is a program of the IOCDF that provides resources and support specifically for people with this disorder.

You might be curious about a “Do I have body dysmorphia?” quiz.

There isn’t one official quiz for diagnosing body dysmorphia. However, there are several screening tools and questionnaires that can help you get a better understanding of whether you might be experiencing symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder.

But remember that these tools are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. If you are concerned that you may have BDD, seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

Here are some of the most commonly used body dysmorphia tests:

  1. The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Questionnaire (BDDQ): This is a 25-item self-report questionnaire that assesses the presence and severity of BDD symptoms. The BDDQ is a reliable and valid measure of BDD and is often used in research studies.
  2. The Body Image Scale (BIS): 15 questions to see if you’re unhappy with your body, not specific to body dysmorphia, but can help identify people at risk.
  3. The Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCI-R): This inventory contains 87 questions that check for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. Body dysmorphic disorder isn’t OCD, but they often go together, so this can help identify people at risk for both.

In addition to these screening tools, many online quizzes and questionnaires for BDD can be misleading or unreliable. So, it’s essential to stick to resources from mental health professionals.

How to deal with BDD

If you were diagnosed with this condition, you’re not alone. Lots of people deal with this, and there are things you can do to feel better.

Take therapy into account as the primary focus. It can help you develop healthier ways to cope with body dysmorphia through medications or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Consider talking to others who understand what you’re going through. Social support can be a beneficial tool to deal with body dysmorphic disorder.

Besides that, there are also some tips on how to take care of yourself and lessen the BDD symptoms. ➡️

  • Do things you enjoy: Whether it’s painting, playing with a cat, reading a book, or spending time with loved ones, doing things that make you happy can boost your mood and help you focus on the good stuff.
  • Social media isn’t welcome here: Seeing perfect pictures can make anyone feel insecure. Take breaks or limit your social media use if it’s bringing you down.
  • Treat your body well: Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and exercise (not to punish yourself, but to feel good, of course!). Taking care of your physical health can help your mental health and beat up BDD.
  • Challenge negative thoughts: When you start to feel bad about yourself, try to challenge those thoughts. Are they true? Are they helpful? Talking back to those negative voices in your head can help quiet them down. To track your negative thoughts, you can also use the Breeze app.
  • Be kind to yourself: We all have flaws, and that’s okay! Focus on your strengths and the things you love about yourself. Self-love quotes can be a great way to boost your self-esteem. 

How to help someone with body dysmorphia

You know the next steps to deal with BDD for yourself, but what about helping others? No worries, I’ve also gathered some helpful advice on how to support someone with body dysmorphic disorder.

  1. Just listen. Show you care with “I hear you” and “Sounds tough.” No fixing, just understanding.
  2. Focus on them, not their looks. Talk about shared fun, not their body. Celebrate their successes beyond appearance.
  3. Support healthy habits. Help them feel good overall, not just look a certain way.
  4. Offer body dysmorphia therapy gently: Mention that it could help, but don’t be intrusive. 

While helping someone, don’t forget about your mental health too. It’s okay to say no if supporting the person becomes overwhelming. Seek your own support system to avoid burnout.

Final touch

Congratulations! You’ve gained valuable knowledge about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and how to support someone who may be struggling with it.

Your mental well-being is the foundation of a happy and fulfilling life. Think of it as the three turtles holding up the Earth! Take a test at Breeze and start strengthening that foundation – one step at a time.

Remember, positive change starts within. The world reflects your inner world, so focus on creating a healthy and accepting space inside yourself!

Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC, shared a few words about body dysmorphia“Body dysmorphia (BDD) is a condition that impacts many people regardless of their true appearance. While it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific cause of BDD, there are ways to work through the challenges that individuals face, including working with a therapist to determine what triggers the cascade of negative thoughts connected to BDD. You don’t have to be defined by your perceived appearance – it’s possible to reduce the symptoms of BDD over time by engaging in self-compassion practices and seeking support from people you trust and professional help when needed.”

Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC photo

Reviewed by Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC

Rychel Johnson, M.S., LCPC, is a licensed clinical professional counselor. She owns a private practice specializing in anxiety tre...