Diagnosing Body Dysmorphic Disorder


People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Can Have Other Disorders

People with BDD can have other psychiatric or medical disorders. Most common are depression (major depressive disorder), a substance use (drug or alcohol) disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia (social anxiety disorder). Often the distress that BDD causes appears to be the major reason for a BDD sufferer's depression or substance use.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Isn't Vanity

Young man looks at himself in a mirror

BDD is a serious and treatable mental illness. BDD isn't vanity. Most people with BDD just want to look normal.

People with BDD often suffer because they feel selfish and vain, even though they aren't. Rather than a problem of excessive vanity, BDD is an illness, like depression, anorexia nervosa or heart disease. It has a life of its own and doesn't reflect moral weakness.

Sometimes people with BDD are told to just stop worrying about how they look. If only it were this simple! This approach usually doesn't help. Instead, it's important to recognize that BDD is a disorder that needs to be treated and often gets better with the right treatment.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Can Be Misdiagnosed as Other Disorders

Not uncommonly, BDD is misdiagnosed as another disorder. The problem with this is that it can lead to the wrong treatment.

Read more about BDD misdiagnosis and how to avoid it.

How Do I Know If I Or Someone I Know Has Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

You can complete the BDD Questionnaire, developed by Katharine Phillips, MD, director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Program at Rhode Island Hospital. This questionnaire can indicate whether someone may have BDD. A version for adults and one for adolescents is available.

This questionnaire screens for the presence of BDD, meaning that it can suggest that BDD is present, but it can't necessarily give a definitive diagnosis. The diagnosis is ideally made by a trained clinician in a face-to-face interview using the DSM-IV TR diagnostic criteria for BDD or a diagnostic measure like the BDD Module.

Read more about the clues that someone may have BDD.