​B​ody Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychiatric disorder that makes you obsessed with your physical appearance. More particularly, you are obsessed with a flaw in your appearance, which may either be much less severe than you believe, or even be entirely imaginary. However, it seems so overwhelming to you that you end up avoiding social situations, so others cannot see your flaws.

These perceived flaws become a cause of severe distress in your life and negatively impact your ability to function normally.  You may dislike any part of your body, but the common features are hair, skin, nose, chest or stomach. This disorder is most common in and often develops in adolescents and teens, and affects both men and women almost equally.

Body dysmorphic disorder can occur due to several factors, such as:

  • Genetic predisposition for mental illness

  • Neurobiological factors (chemical imbalance in the brain)

  • Personality traits

  • Life experiences

If you believe you may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)

  • Comparing yourself with others

  • Seeking surgery

  • Checking your reflection repeatedly in a mirror

  • Avoiding mirrors

  • Skin picking

  • Excessive grooming

  • Excessive exercise

  • Changing clothes excessively

If you or a loved one is experiencing extreme body image issues, seek help from your doctor. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from the highly trained and internationally accredited staff working with the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Your doctor will form a diagnosis based on a detailed medical and personal history. You must mention your concerns about your appearance to your doctor. He/she will judge the severity of your symptoms and also test for other disorders such as <social anxiety disorder>, depression and eating disorders.

Following tests may be used to test for body dysmorphic disorder:

  • Physical exam

  • Lab tests such as blood, urine and thyroid

  • Psychological evaluation: your doctor will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns in order to determine the extent of your symptoms.

It can be difficult to diagnose body dysmorphic disorder because the symptoms are similar to other psychological conditions. It is important to discuss your symptoms and feelings honestly or your doctor won’t even realize that your body image is distorted. It takes time and effort to get an accurate diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment.

Your treatment will be aimed at improving your symptoms and enhancing your daily functioning. A very useful treatment in these situations is psychotherapy, particularly CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). This will help you to:

  • Identify your fears about yourself

  • Change your negative perception of yourself

  • Change the way you respond to symptoms (perceived or real)

  • Learn to cope with anxiety and stress

  • Improve social and personal relationships

  • Address other mental or physical problems, such as depression.

Your doctor may also prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to help you manage your symptoms.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​