Understanding the Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, is condition where a patient they have a medical illness or a physical defect that only exists in their mind. In other words, a person suffering from this disorder claims to be experiencing symptoms of an illness or defect that only they can see and no other people, including medical professionals, can validate. This is a sort of mental illness with no proven specific cause for this disorder. However, there are a number of causes of body dysmorphic disorder worth looking into.

Neurotransmitters and Chemical Imbalance

When certain neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin become problematic, damaged or affected negatively by any number of causes, it can help develop mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and quite possibly body dysmorphic disorder. Disruption of how neurotransmitters work may be caused by traumatic events that are physical in nature, but it is more often genetic. These neurotransmitters help in the transmission of messages between nerve cells in the brain, so any disruption to how they function can cause any number of mental problems, including the aforementioned BDD. Any event that can cause low levels of the hormone serotonin will likely lead to depression and BDD.

Emotional Trauma and Other Psychological Issues

The most usual causes of BDD are related to how one looks physically. For these people, they are ugly or they have a physical deformity that only they can see and is often unnoticed by other people. This can stem from emotional trauma dealt during childhood when they were possibly made to believe that they are not visually appealing. Conflict with friends or family members can bring about this emotional distress, as well as low esteem. It may not even be the friends or family members of the patient who are the source of emotional trauma. Society as a whole can affect one’s view of their physical appearance. With all the images seen on TV, movies and magazines, one can be lead to believe that there is something wrong with their physical appearance and that they are ugly.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

BDD can be a derivative of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. People with OCD may become to critical of how their body looks and functions, leading them to believe that there is something wrong with them and it needs to be corrected. It can be a perceived deformity or a critical view of one’s own body shape or weight. Partnered with depression, this may lead to a downward spiral for the patient, a possible cause for one to consider suicide.


It is believed that there is a link between BDD and genetics. The development of body dysmorphic disorder is more common among people with family members who are also suffering or have suffered from the condition. In these cases, the chemical imbalance of one generation is likely to be passed on to the next one.

Looking at all of these possible causes of body dysmorphic disorder, it can be generalized that the disorder can be caused by two general factors: neurobiological problems and psychological problems.