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What Is Facial Dysmorphia and How to Cope with It?

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and felt unhappy with how you look? Maybe you think your nose is too big, your skin is too blemished, or your teeth are too crooked. While it’s normal to have some insecurities about your appearance, for some people, these thoughts can become obsessive and distressing. This is called facial dysmorphia, a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

In this blog post, we will explain what facial dysmorphia is, what causes it, how it affects your life, and how you can cope with it. We will also answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about this condition.

What is facial dysmorphia?

Facial dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which you have a distorted perception of your facial features. You may believe that you have a flaw or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed, even though others may not notice it or think it’s minor. You may spend hours each day worrying about your appearance, checking the mirror, grooming, or seeking reassurance from others. You may also avoid social situations, miss work or school, or seek cosmetic procedures to try to fix your perceived flaw.

Facial dysmorphia is a subset of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which can affect any part of your body. However, facial dysmorphia is more common, as the face is often the most visible and expressive part of ourselves. According to the International OCD Foundation, about 2.5% of the population suffers from BDD, and about 80% of them are concerned about their face.

What causes facial dysmorphia?

There is no single cause of facial dysmorphia, but rather a combination of factors that may contribute to its development. These include:

  • Genetics: You may have a higher risk of developing facial dysmorphia if you have a family history of BDD or other mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, or depression.
  • Brain chemistry: You may have an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin, that affect your mood, self-esteem, and perception of reality.
  • Environment: You may have experienced trauma, abuse, bullying, or criticism in your childhood or adolescence that damaged your self-image and self-worth. You may also be influenced by the unrealistic and idealized standards of beauty promoted by the media, social media, and culture.
  • Personality: You may have certain personality traits that make you more prone to facial dysmorphia, such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, sensitivity to criticism, or a need for approval.

How does facial dysmorphia affect your life?

Facial dysmorphia can have a negative impact on your physical, mental, and social well-being. Some of the ways that facial dysmorphia can affect your life are:

  • Physical health: You may neglect your basic needs, such as eating, sleeping, or exercising, because of your preoccupation with your appearance. You may also harm your skin, hair, or teeth by overusing products, picking, or scratching. You may also expose yourself to risks or complications from cosmetic procedures, such as infections, scarring, or dissatisfaction with the results.
  • Mental health: You may experience intense emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, or anger, because of your perceived flaw. You may also have suicidal thoughts or attempts, especially if you feel hopeless or isolated. You may also develop other mental health conditions, such as OCD, eating disorders, or substance abuse, as a way of coping with your facial dysmorphia.
  • Social life: You may avoid or limit your interactions with others, such as friends, family, or romantic partners, because of your fear of being judged or rejected. You may also miss out on opportunities, such as education, work, or hobbies, because of your lack of confidence or motivation. You may also have difficulties in your relationships, such as conflicts, mistrust, or dependency, because of your insecurity or need for reassurance.

How can you cope with facial dysmorphia?

Facial dysmorphia can be a challenging condition to live with, but it is not hopeless. There are effective ways to cope with facial dysmorphia and improve your quality of life. Some of the steps you can take are:

  • Seek professional help: The first and most important step is to seek professional help from a qualified mental health provider, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. They can diagnose your condition, rule out any underlying medical issues, and provide you with appropriate treatment options. The most common treatments for facial dysmorphia are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps you identify and challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs about your appearance, and replace them with more realistic and positive ones. Medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, can help you reduce your distress and improve your mood and functioning. Your provider can help you find the best combination of treatments for your specific needs and goals.
  • Join a support group: Another helpful step is to join a support group for people with facial dysmorphia or BDD. A support group can provide you with a safe and supportive environment where you can share your experiences, feelings, and challenges with others who understand what you are going through. You can also learn from others’ coping strategies, insights, and successes, and receive encouragement and feedback. You can find a support group online or in your local area through organizations such as the BDD Foundation or the International OCD Foundation.
  • Practice self-care: A third step is to practice self-care, which means taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Self-care can help you reduce your stress, boost your mood, and improve your self-esteem. Some examples of self-care activities are:
    • Eating a balanced and nutritious diet
    • Getting enough sleep and rest
    • Exercising regularly and moderately
    • Engaging in relaxing and enjoyable hobbies
    • Spending time with supportive and positive people
    • Expressing your feelings in healthy ways, such as writing, drawing, or talking
    • Avoiding alcohol, drugs, or other substances that can worsen your condition
    • Limiting your exposure to triggers, such as mirrors, social media, or magazines
    • Practicing gratitude, optimism, or affirmations
    • Seeking help when you need it


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about facial dysmorphia:

  • Q: How do I know if I have facial dysmorphia?
  • A: There is no definitive test or diagnosis for facial dysmorphia, but you can use some of the following signs and symptoms as a guide:
    • You are extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in your facial appearance that others can’t see or think is minor
    • You spend a lot of time (more than an hour a day) worrying, checking, grooming, or hiding your perceived flaw
    • You feel ashamed, embarrassed, or anxious about your perceived flaw and avoid social situations or activities because of it
    • You seek reassurance from others about your perceived flaw or ask them to confirm or deny it
    • You have tried or considered cosmetic procedures to fix your perceived flaw, but were not satisfied with the outcome or wanted more
    • Your preoccupation with your perceived flaw causes you significant distress or impairment in your daily life, such as work, school, or relationships
    If you have some or all of these signs and symptoms, and they have lasted for more than six months, you may have facial dysmorphia. However, the only way to be sure is to consult a professional mental health provider who can assess your condition and provide you with a proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Q: What is the difference between facial dysmorphia and low self-esteem?
  • A: Low self-esteem is a general feeling of not liking or valuing yourself, or thinking that you are not good enough. Facial dysmorphia is a specific and distorted perception of your facial appearance, or thinking that you have a flaw or defect that makes you ugly or deformed. While low self-esteem and facial dysmorphia can overlap and influence each other, they are not the same thing. You can have low self-esteem without having facial dysmorphia, and vice versa. However, both conditions can affect your mental health and well-being, and may require professional help to overcome.
  • Q: Can facial dysmorphia be cured?
  • A: There is no cure for facial dysmorphia, but it can be treated and managed with the right combination of therapy, medication, and self-help strategies. With proper treatment, you can learn to cope with your condition, reduce your distress, and improve your quality of life. However, treatment is not a quick fix, and it may take time, effort, and patience to see results. You may also experience relapses or setbacks along the way, but that does not mean that you have failed or that your condition is hopeless. You can always seek help and support from your provider, support group, or loved ones, and remember that recovery is possible and worth it.

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