Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is, according to the DSM-IV-TR (2000), a somatoform disorder: It has physical symptoms that suggest the presence of a general medical condition, but cannot be fully explained by a medical condition.
In BDD, the person is overwhelmingly, almost obsessively, concerned about an imagined or slight physical defect. This preoccupation causes interference in the person’s daily functioning.
Individuals with BDD may avoid leaving their home without spending several hours applying makeup to cover up a blemish that may or may not be visible to others, they may go out only with a hat on if they fear that their hair is thinning, or they may seek out expensive surgical procedures to correct any slight anomalies they think keep them from looking perfect.
Individuals with BDD often seek reassurance that they look decent, but often do not believe anyone who tells them that they do (they often respond by saying that people just tell them they look OK because they are being nice). However, if someone were to tell them that they did not look acceptable, they would believe that and use it as further evidence that they were correct in their beliefs.
Individuals with BDD may have obsessions about their looks and even perform compulsive behaviors, such as constantly looking in the mirror, but they would be diagnosed with OCD only if there were other obsessions or compulsions present that did not focus on their BDD concerns. Research indicates that between 16 and 37 percent of individuals with BDD have OCD, and vice versa.
Further, the treatments for OCD appear to also work well for BDD. There is a great deal of information available about BDD, and several organizations are devoted to its research and treatment, many of which can be found at BDD Central.