What Is The Best Type Of Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment For Me?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Many might struggle with accepting their bodies from time to time. However, some individuals can develop a mental health condition that can cause them to experience intense feelings of worry about perceived flaws in their bodies—whether or not those flaws are truly there. This is generally known as body dysmorphic disorder. A range of different treatments can support those who are currently living with this condition, possibly helping them to reduce symptomatic expression and elevate their quality of life. 

We’ve summarized a list of possible body dysmorphic disorder treatments below for your consideration.

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About body dysmorphic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws or defects in one's physical appearance, often leading to distress and impairment in daily life.

It is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as both are characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. While individuals diagnosed with BDD obsess over perceived flaws in their appearance, those with OCD may engage in rituals to alleviate the distress caused by intrusive thoughts.

It is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as both are characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. 

Risk factors for BDD include a family history of the disorder, social anxiety, and reassurance-seeking behaviors. Without proper attention and treatment by healthcare providers to diagnose BDD, the symptoms may worsen. Individuals might experience severe depression, social avoidance, substance use*, and even suicidal* thoughts or actions if BDD is left untreated. 

Therapy for body dysmorphic disorder aims to address the diagnosis, reduce symptoms, and address challenges should symptoms return. For example, a mental health professional might aim to help an individual return to social activities without focusing on his or her appearance. 

The best type of treatment for BDD

At the time of this publication, there is no singular, unanimously defined "cure" for, or any way to prevent body dysmorphic disorder. However, there are treatments that can help you manage BDD symptoms that you’re experiencing, possibly limiting their implication and role in your daily life. Body dysmorphic disorder is treated with two primary methods found to be effective: SSRI medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

After having your body dysmorphic disorder diagnosed, doctors might suggest that you undergo both medication and psychotherapy treatment as a combined, concentrated effort if you choose to seek treatment. This might be because medication-related intervention can help abate some of the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder while you are going through cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Consulting with a medical provider before deciding to take a new medication is generally the best path to take, as you can maximize your benefit while limiting your potential for negative outcomes.

We do want to note: The best type of treatment for you will generally depend on what’s most effective for your specific needs. You can work alongside a team of mental health and medical professionals to come up with a plan of action. You may have to try different treatments or even a combination of methods until you find which ones are right for you.

How does cognitive behavioral therapy help those living with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally defined as a form of psychotherapy that can support people in recognizing and changing thoughts or behavior consciously and mindfully. 

This approach is called CBT due to the structure of the approach. You may be asked to examine thoughts and behaviors objectively during sessions with the help of a therapist. Over time, you can learn new ways to take control of your thoughts and actions when on your own.

One study found that CBT eliminated symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder in 88% of patients. A total of 77% of patients retained that status and did not relapse after therapy was completed. This not only suggests the possible efficacy of this treatment measure, but it also can serve as an encouragement: Unlearning beliefs that have been held for so long can be difficult, but it is possible to do for many.


Exposure and ritual prevention

This is generally done as a part of cognitive behavioral therapy—however, it can also be done in a standalone way. In this supportive strategy, you may be asked to address your behavioral activities or avoidances. You and your therapist can then develop a hierarchy of nervousness you may experience in different situations that can make you feel uncomfortable or that you avoid. 

After this, you may be asked to commit to exposing yourself to the items on this list, one at a time—starting with the least troublesome and most available to you at that time.

During this exercise, your therapist might also challenge you to stop certain rituals that you may be using to cope with your body dysmorphia. For example: If you are constantly checking yourself in the mirror, the therapist may challenge you to only look in the mirror a few times per day, decreasing as time goes on. The therapist can then give you different activities that you can do instead of looking in the mirror. 

Perceptual retraining

Perceptual retraining can be helpful for those who might feel as if they obsess about one specific part of their appearance. Many people with body dysmorphia might stand or sit very close to the mirror to closely examine the aspect of their appearance that they are worried about—possibly worsening the symptomatic expression. For many, the first step of this process may include your therapist helping you identify your current bodily insecurities and how to work around them.

Once this occurs, they can then work with you to begin to change your perception of yourself. You may do this in stages, such as looking into a mirror at a conversational distance of two to three feet. The therapist may then challenge you to look into the mirror at the bigger picture rather than only at that thing about your appearance that you are concerned about. 

They can help you point out good features that you have and recognize that the overall picture is not as offensive as your thoughts may lead you to believe.

Relapse prevention

Once you have met your goals in cognitive behavioral therapy, your therapist might then work with you to ensure that you do not relapse after therapy ends. Relapse prevention strategies can include helpful steps, such as going over the tools and strategies that you learned and discussing ways to apply those strategies in your everyday life. For some people, follow-up appointments every few months to go over and reinforce strategies may be helpful to prevent relapse.

SSRI medications

Some people with body dysmorphic disorder can benefit from treatment with medication. Body dysmorphia has some key characteristics that can be similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can be frequently treated with SSRI antidepressant drugs. 

Studies have suggested that SSRI drugs can be very effective in the treatment of BDD. Research and similar subsequent findings have been attributed to several different SSRI medications, many of which are thought to work in the same way.

If you are considering medication for the management of BDD, we do want to encourage you to reach out to a healthcare provider. They can help you to maximize your benefits and minimize medication-related risks, keeping you as safe as possible as you work to address BDD. 

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Looking for support with body dysmorphic disorder?

How can online therapy help those experiencing BDD? 

If you are currently living with body dysmorphia or think you might have the condition, seeking help from an online therapist may help you find relief from your symptoms. 

We do want to note that living with body dysmorphic disorder can be challenging. As a result, it might be difficult to find people to open up to who you’re sure won’t judge you if you seek therapy in an in-person setting. Online therapy, however, can empower you to you to speak with licensed counselors who can support and help you, possibly in a more attainable way. 

Is online therapy with a mental health professional effective? 

Online therapy can be an effective tool for treating a variety of mental health conditions, including body dysmorphic disorder. One study suggested that internet-based CBT reduced symptoms of BDD and improved existing symptoms of depression in the study participants. The majority of participants also reported being pleased with their treatment, with many saying they’d use it again. 


Developing a healthy body image can be important. However, certain conditions like body dysmorphic disorder can make this more difficult for some. There are a range of other supplementary resources available as you work toward finding the most effective option for you. Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally considered to be a leading intervention for treating BDD, which a licensed online counselor can help you through. BetterHelp can connect you with an online counselor in your area of need.
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