Male Dysmorphic Disorder (Symptoms, Causes & How to Cure)

Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Occasionally, something about your appearance you don’t like or would prefer to change is expected. Still, when a perceived flaw becomes a fixation that causes significant distress and impacts daily life, it can be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Here’s a detailed guide on what you need to know about the condition, how it impacts men, and the signs you might struggle with.

What is Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder in men, a mental health condition where you can’t stop thinking about one or more flaws or perceived defects in appearance — a weakness that appears minor or can’t be seen by others. However, you feel embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.

When you have BDD, you intensely focus on your body image and appearance, checking the mirror repeatedly, grooming, or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours daily. The perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause distress and impact the ability to function daily.

Who Can Develop Male Body Dysmorphia?

About 40% of people with BDD are men, and about 60% are women. BDD mainly starts in your teens or early adult years. People usually develop BDD around 12 or 13 years old. Two-thirds of people with BDD develop it before age 18. However, BDD can also start in adulthood. 

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Men 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder in men shares many of the same symptoms as BDD in individuals of other genders. It is characterized by a preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in one’s physical appearance, leading to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. 

Here are some common symptoms of male Body Dysmorphic Disorder:

1. Obsessive Focus on Appearance: 

Men with BDD often have a consuming preoccupation with a specific aspect of their physical appearance that they believe to be flawed. This could include concerns about their skin, hair, body shape, facial features, or any other part of their body.

2. Excessive Self-Criticism: 

Those with BDD are highly critical of themselves and are convinced that their perceived flaw makes them unattractive or deformed. They may believe that others notice and are repulsed by this flaw, even if it is not noticeable to others.

3. Repetitive Behaviors:

Individuals with BDD frequently engage in compulsive behaviors in response to their appearance concerns. These behaviors can include:

  • Mirror Checking: Frequent and prolonged checking of one’s appearance in mirrors, reflective surfaces, or even taking pictures.
  • Grooming Rituals: Spending excessive amounts of time on grooming, such as combing hair, applying makeup, or skincare routines, to conceal the perceived flaw.
  • Camouflaging: Using clothing or accessories to hide the perceived flaw, such as wearing hats, scarves, or heavy makeup.
  • Seeking Reassurance: Constantly seeking validation and reassurance from others about their appearance.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding social situations, dating, or events where they fear their appearance will be judged.

4. Social and Occupational Impairment: 

BDD can significantly impact an individual’s social life, work, and relationships. Men with BDD may withdraw from social activities, isolate themselves, or have difficulty maintaining employment or academic pursuits.

5. Emotional Distress: 

Men with BDD often experience high levels of emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and shame, related to their appearance concerns.

6. Avoidance of Certain Situations: 

Due to their intense anxiety about their perceived flaw, individuals with BDD may avoid situations where their appearance might be scrutinized, such as going to the gym, swimming, or even attending social gatherings.

7. Comparison with Others: 

Men with BDD may frequently compare themselves to others, especially celebrities or individuals they perceive as having an ideal appearance.

8. Multiple Cosmetic Procedures: 

Some individuals with BDD resort to undergoing multiple cosmetic procedures (e.g., plastic surgery) in an attempt to correct the perceived flaw, even if there is no medical necessity for these procedures.

Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Males

The exact causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder in men, like in all individuals involve a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Here are some potential contributing factors that can play a role in the development of BDD in men:

1. Genetic Factors: 

There may be a genetic component to BDD, as it tends to run in families. Having a family history of BDD or other mental health conditions could increase one’s susceptibility.

2. Neurobiological Factors: 

Research suggests that imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) like serotonin may play a role in the development of BDD. Similar neurobiological factors have been implicated in other mood and anxiety disorders.

3. Psychological Factors: 

Certain personality traits and psychological vulnerabilities may increase the risk of BDD. For example, individuals who are highly perfectionistic, have low self-esteem, or have a history of childhood teasing or bullying related to their appearance may be more prone to BDD.

4. Sociocultural Factors: 

Societal and cultural factors can contribute to the development of BDD, as men, like women, are exposed to unrealistic beauty standards through media, advertising, and social media. Pressure to conform to these standards can lead to body dissatisfaction and, in some cases, the development of BDD.

5. Traumatic Events: 

Past traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse related to appearance, can contribute to the development of BDD.

6. Early Experiences: 

Childhood experiences and upbringing can also play a role. Messages received during childhood about the importance of appearance and self-worth may influence an individual’s perception of themselves.

7. Brain Structure and Function: 

Some studies have suggested that differences in brain structure and function, particularly in regions associated with self-image and emotional processing, may be associated with BDD.

8. Coping Mechanisms: 

BDD can sometimes develop as a maladaptive coping mechanism in response to stress, trauma, or other mental health issues. Focusing on perceived flaws may serve as a way to distract from underlying emotional pain.

Complications of Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder can have significant and far-reaching complications that impact various aspects of an individual’s life. It is essential to recognize and address these complications to provide appropriate treatment and support. 

Here are some potential complications associated with Male BDD:

1. Impaired Quality of Life: 

BDD can lead to a diminished quality of life as individuals become consumed by their appearance concerns. They may avoid social situations, hobbies, and activities they once enjoyed, leading to isolation and a sense of unhappiness.

2. Depression: 

BDD is often comorbid with depression. The constant preoccupation with perceived flaws, coupled with the distress and impaired functioning it causes, can contribute to the development or exacerbation of depressive symptoms.

3. Anxiety Disorders: 

Many individuals with BDD experience high levels of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or specific phobias related to appearance, such as gym or pool phobia.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): 

BDD shares similarities with OCD in terms of repetitive and ritualistic behaviors. In some cases, BDD symptoms may overlap with or contribute to the development of OCD.

5. Substance Abuse: 

Some individuals with BDD turn to substance abuse, including drugs or alcohol, as a way to cope with their emotional distress and anxiety.

6. Suicidal Ideation and Self-Harm: 

The intense emotional distress and hopelessness experienced by individuals with BDD can lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harming behaviors.

7. Financial Strain: 

Seeking cosmetic procedures or treatments to correct the perceived flaw can result in significant financial strain. Individuals with BDD may undergo multiple unnecessary procedures in an attempt to alleviate their concerns.

8. Relationship Problems: 

BDD can strain relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. The constant preoccupation with appearance and the avoidance of social situations can lead to conflict and isolation.

9. Risks of Compulsive Behaviors: 

Repetitive behaviors associated with BDD, such as excessive grooming or mirror checking, can lead to physical harm, such as skin damage, infection, or hair loss.

Diagnosis of Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Men

A mental health professional diagnoses BDD on symptoms and how much they affect life.

A person diagnosed with BDD:

  • Be abnormally concerned about a nonexistent or minor body flaw
  • Thoughts about his body flaw must be severe enough that they interfere with his ability to live normally
  • Other mental health disorders should be ruled out as a cause of symptoms

Other mental health disorders are common in individuals with BDD. They include obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

How to Cure of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Managing or overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder in men involves a combination of therapeutic interventions, medication, and support. 

Here are steps that can help in the management and treatment of BDD:

1. Seek Professional Help

The first and most crucial step is to seek help from a mental health professional who specializes in treating BDD. This may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist with experience in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for BDD.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is considered the most effective form of therapy for BDD. It focuses on identifying and challenging the distorted beliefs about one’s appearance and replacing them with more realistic and balanced thoughts. CBT also addresses the compulsive behaviors associated with BDD and helps individuals reduce or eliminate these behaviors.

3. Medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed, typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies that often co-occur with BDD. Medication should be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare provider.

4. Group Therapy

Group therapy can be beneficial for individuals with BDD as it provides a supportive environment to share experiences, gain insight, and receive feedback from peers who understand the challenges associated with the disorder.

5. Education and Awareness

Learning more about BDD and its underlying causes can be empowering. Individuals and their loved ones should educate themselves about the disorder to better understand its nature and treatment options.

6. Self-Help Strategies

Some self-help strategies can complement professional treatment, such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques, stress management, and self-compassion exercises. These strategies can help individuals manage distressing moments. Joining online yoga courses, like mental health courses or online meditation courses can be of great help.

7. Avoid Triggers

Identify and avoid triggers that exacerbate BDD symptoms. This may include avoiding excessive time in front of mirrors, minimizing exposure to social media that emphasizes appearance, or refraining from seeking reassurance about one’s appearance from others.

8. Support Network

Encourage open communication with friends and family about BDD. A strong support network can provide emotional support and help individuals stay on track with treatment.

9. Patience and Persistence

Recovery from BDD can be a gradual process, and setbacks may occur. It’s important to be patient with oneself and continue working on treatment goals even when progress feels slow.

10. Monitor Progress

Keep track of progress and improvements. This can be motivating and provide a sense of achievement as individuals gradually gain control over their symptoms.

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FAQs About Male BDD

1. Is Male BDD different from BDD in women?

BDD itself is similar in both men and women. However, there may be differences in the specific appearance concerns and societal pressures faced by each gender, which can influence the manifestation of the disorder.

2. What causes Male BDD?

The causes of Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder are complex and can include genetic, psychological, neurobiological, and sociocultural factors. There is no single cause, and it likely results from a combination of these factors.

3. How is Male Body Dysmorphic Disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis is generally made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. They assess symptoms, behavior, and the impact on daily life using standardized criteria for BDD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

4. Can Body Dysmorphic Disorder lead to other mental health issues?

Yes, BDD is often comorbid with other mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

5. What is the treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder in men?

Treatment often involves a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) tailored for BDD, medication (e.g., SSRIs), and support groups. The specific treatment plan is tailored to the individual’s needs.


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