How to Help a Loved One with Body Dysmorphia

sick person losing weight

• Understand the medical disorder of body dysmorphia: its symptoms, causes, and available treatments.

• Speak up and provide a safe space for them to share their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.

• Encourage healthy habits such as eating nutritious food, making time for exercise, and practicing mindfulness.

• Talk to them about their disorder and support any therapy or treatment they may be undergoing.

If someone you love struggles with body dysmorphia, it can be challenging to know how to help. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by an intense preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance that aren’t actually there. It can cause people to feel ashamed and isolated, often leading to low self-esteem and depression. Here are some tips on how you can support your loved one through their journey toward recovery.

1. Understand the Disorder

It’s important to understand what body dysmorphia is and how it affects your loved one. Do some research about BDD so that you can empathize with their experience. Educate yourself on the symptoms, causes, and treatments available for this condition, so you are better equipped to provide the right kind of support when they need it most. Here are some vital information to help you:


Many people with BDD may experience symptoms such as constantly comparing their appearance to others, feeling self-conscious in social situations, excessive grooming and skin picking, and spending excessive time thinking about perceived flaws. They may also frequently look in the mirror and avoid mirrors or reflective surfaces altogether.


The exact cause of BDD is unclear, but it is believed to be a combination of biological and environmental factors. These may include having a family history of mental health issues, experiencing trauma or abuse, having an overly critical inner voice, or feeling constant pressure to meet certain beauty standards.


It is important to note that there is no single treatment for BDD. Treatment plans are tailored to an individual’s specific needs. They may include different types of therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy), medication, or a combination of the two. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, they may also benefit from visiting a mental health professional.

A patient talking to a therapist in a clinic

2. Speak Up

The first step in helping someone with body dysmorphia is simply speaking up. Let them know that you are here for them, no matter what they may be going through. Show them that you understand their feelings and respect their struggle, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them or understand them fully. The most important thing is to create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their issues without fear of judgment or criticism.

Another way to give yourself a voice is by taking a mental health first aid program. This can give you the skills and knowledge to be able to recognize when someone is struggling with a mental health issue, such as BDD. It also gives you the confidence to intervene and offer help when needed. Local mental health first aid programs can be found through organizations such as the American Red Cross.

3. Encourage Healthy Habits

Encouraging healthy habits is one of the best ways to support a loved one with body dysmorphia. This might include:

Eating healthy

Even though food might play a complicated role in body dysmorphia, it is still essential to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Encourage your loved one to make healthy food choices, such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Making time for exercise

Exercise can be a great way to boost mood and self-esteem. Encourage your loved one to find an exercise routine that they enjoy, such as walking or running. This can also be an excellent way for them to practice self-care.

Practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness can be an effective tool in managing body dysmorphic thoughts. Encourage your loved one to practice deep breathing, meditate, or do other activities that can help them stay focused on the present moment.

If you can, talk to them about their disorder and support them in any therapy or treatment they may be undergoing. Connecting with people with similar struggles can also help them understand and accept their condition. They may find solace in joining a support group or talking to a mentor who has had similar experiences.

Helping a loved one with body dysmorphia can be a challenging undertaking – but it doesn’t have to be impossible! By educating yourself on the disorder, speaking up when needed, and encouraging healthy habits, you can make a real difference in someone suffering from BDD’s life. Your support will mean the world to them as they journey toward recovery.

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