Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent of the general population- about 1 in 50 people. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition that affects a person’s body image. Individuals who have BDD can think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day, and usually can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe others who tell them they look fine.

BDD is classified with diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–Fifth Edition) and defined by specific criteria. BDD is diagnosed when three criteria are met:

  • First, the sufferer must be either preoccupied with an imagined defect in their appearance or excessively concerned about a slight physical anomaly.
  • Secondly, the sufferer must be significantly distressed by their preoccupation or excessive concern with their appearance and/or be impaired in terms of what work-related and social activities they can participate in.
  • Finally, their preoccupation must not be better diagnosed under the heading of a different mental illness, such as anorexia, where body image is also a factor.

Visit the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website for more information on the DSM-5 criteria.

There are many potential factors that play a role in the development of body dysmorphia. For example, almost all cultures have certain standards of beauty. The more a culture puts high value on extreme standards, the more extreme measures individuals are going to take to fit in. This pressure can cause many individuals to overanalyze or examine themselves and think something is a defect that they possess. Others may experience fatphobia, which is defined as an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against obesity or people with obesity. Another added pressure is the fact that these unrealistic ideals that are usually biased towards a Western, white, cisgender, heterosexual person. For example, people of color with this disorder may experience desires of skin-bleaching or hair treatments as a reaction to discrimination by others.

Body dysmorphia can affect anyone and is often under-diagnosed and under-researched. This is a very complex illness that requires treatment and awareness.

At Illinois State University, The Body Project and More than Muscles are programs that specifically address body image concerns. These are fun, effective, and free programs for ISU students where participants can expect interactive activities and dialogue through peer-led discussion. Students also have the opportunity to earn SONA extra credit for signing up.

If students feel the need to contact other resources outside of Illinois State University, the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE is available, as well as the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) hotline at (800) 931-2237.