BDD FAQs

On this page you will find our answers to frequently asked questions about Body Dysmorphic Disorder. If you have clinical-related questions about BDD, whether answered below or not, we urge you to speak directly with a mental health professional for assistance.

Is there a cure for BDD?
No. There is no cure for BDD; but with proper treatment, many individuals can achieve a lessening of symptoms and learn to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. The best treatment for BDD involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), traditional talk therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.

When does the onset of BDD usually occur?
Although it can occur at any age, BDD is most often first seen during early adolescence between the ages of 9 and 15 years old.

How many people suffer from BDD?
The true incidence of BDD is unknown, but it is estimated that 1-2 percent of the population has been affected by the disorder. Many sufferers are afraid to seek help due to the shame, embarrassment, and social phobia that accompanies BDD. Others are simply unaware that the disorder exists due to a lack of public awareness and education.

Do more women suffer from BDD compared to men?
No. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is known to affect men and women equally.

Are narcissism and vanity related to BDD?
No. Narcissism and vanity are not related to BDD. In fact, individuals suffering with BDD are often disgusted with their appearance and do not wish to be noticed by others.

If someone is dissatisfied with their appearance, does that automatically mean they have BDD?
For the average person, experiencing occasional concerns about appearance is normal, and those concerns are not necessarily indicative of BDD. In contrast, BDD sufferers endure obsessive concerns about their looks that negatively influence their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on a frequent basis.

Does plastic surgery normally help BDD sufferers feel more confident about their appearance?
This is one of the most troubling aspects of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Many BDD sufferers elect to undergo plastic surgery in an effort to correct perceived flaws. These surgeries are rarely successful, and in some cases, may cause BDD symptoms to worsen. Even in successful surgeries with satisfactory results, BDD sufferers tend to shift their anxieties to other areas of the body. In short, a psychiatric illness cannot be treated by altering an external part of the body.

Can I tell if someone has BDD by simply observing them?
You most likely cannot tell if someone has BDD based on observation alone. BDD sufferers often go out of their way to avoid standing out, though sometimes their ‘camouflaging’ techniques serve as an indication that a problem does exist. For example, an individual with BDD-related skin obsessions may wear excessive amounts of makeup to hide self-perceived flaws. Without a familiarity with the disorder, however, others may view the excessive makeup as a personal choice rather than a sign of BDD.

Can BDD worsen if left untreated?
Yes, and it often does.

Can BDD really lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors if left untreated?
Yes, unfortunately it can. Another very troubling characteristic of BDD is that approximately 25-30 percent of individuals suffering with the disorder make suicide attempts. If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

How can I help someone living with BDD?
Recognizing the seriousness of BDD and educating yourself about the various aspects of the disorder is a good place to start. You can review our BDD Literature page for more information. Encouraging the BDD sufferer to explore psychiatric treatment is also important. While being an informed friend or family member can prove to be invaluable, BDD requires very specific treatment by a clinician familiar with the disorder. Seeking a cure from dermatologists or plastic surgeons is not the answer, and typically only serves to exacerbate the problem. Please see our ‘Find Treatment’ section for help with finding a clinician.

I experience BDD symptoms and need help. What is the first step?
The first step is to speak with a BDD specialist. Please see our ‘Find Treatment’ section for help with locating a specialist near you. If you cannot find someone in your area, consider seeking help from a clinician who treats obsessive-compulsive disorder or eating disorders, as these illnesses share similar characteristics. You can also explore our BDD Literature page for a list of informative books on the subject.