Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a preoccupation with a defect in the person’s physical appearance. The defect is either imagined, or, if a slight physical anomaly is present, the individual’s concern is markedly excessive. The preoccupation must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Last, the preoccupation cannot be better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., dissatisfaction with body shape and size in anorexia nervosa).
Complaints commonly involve imagined or slight flaws of the face or head such as hair thinning, acne, wrinkles, scars, vascular markings, paleness or redness of the complexion, swelling, facial asymmetry or disproportion, or excessive facial hair. Other common preoccupations include the shape, size, or some other aspect of the nose, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, ears, mouth, lips, teeth, jaw, chin, cheeks, or head. However, any other body part may be the focus of concern (e.g., the genitals, breasts, buttocks, abdomen, arms, hands, feet, legs, hips, shoulders, spine, larger body regions, or overall body size).
The preoccupation may simultaneously focus on several body parts. Although the complaint is often specific (e.g., a “crooked” lip or a “bumpy” nose), it is sometimes vague (e.g., a “falling” face or “inadequately firm” eyes). Because of embarrassment over their concerns, some individuals with body dysmorphic disorder avoid describing their “defects” in detail and may instead refer only to their general ugliness.
Most individuals with this disorder experience marked distress over their supposed deformity, often describing their preoccupations as “intensely painful,” “tormenting,” or “devastating.” Most find their preoccupations difficult to control, and they may make little or no attempt to resist them. As a result, they often spend hours a day thinking about their “defect,” to the point where these thoughts may dominate their lives. Significant impairment in many areas of functioning generally occurs. Feelings of self-consciousness about their “defect” may lead to avoidance of work or public situations.
Specific Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. If a slight physical anomaly is present, the person’s concern is markedly excessive.
- The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., dissatisfaction with body shape and size in anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders).