Why is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) difficult to diagnose?

It can be hard to diagnose this disorder because people often feel shame and are secretive about their feelings and symptoms. They may be embarrassed and choose not to tell their providers about their symptoms. The disorder can go unnoticed for years. Many people with body dysmorphic disorder don’t receive a diagnosis.

One sign providers and family members may notice is a person repeatedly seeking plastic surgery for a physical defect they think they have.

How is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will ask about personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. If the provider suspects body dysmorphic disorder, they may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

These mental health professionals evaluate the person’s attitude, behavior and symptoms. A provider will often diagnose body dysmorphic disorder when a person:

  • Is preoccupied with a flaw or flaws in their appearance.
  • Does repetitive actions (grooming, checking appearance in a mirror) because of their concern about their appearance.
  • Can’t function at work or home because they are so worried about how they look.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy