Is Body Dysmorphia an Eating Disorder?

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When someone is unable to see their body clearly and becomes obsessed with perceived flaws, it compromises their quality of life. This condition may sound like it’s strictly a symptom of anorexia or bulimia, but is body dysmorphia an eating disorder? We explore the differences and learn how people can learn to overcome these mental health challenges with compassionate professional treatment from Trellis Recovery Centers.

What is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphic disorder, also known as body dysmorphia, is a mental health disorder characterized by a person becoming obsessed with one or more perceived flaws in how they look. The issue they fixate on either does not actually exist or is minimal compared to what they see. Common points of focus include a person’s nose, complexion, hair, breast size, genitalia, and muscle tone and size.

Someone with body dysmorphia spends inordinate amounts of time looking in the mirror, touching, and trying to change or hide the part of their physical selves they think is shameful and needs correcting. Even when experts tell the individual they are not flawed, the person finds themselves unable to believe them. 

The effects of this condition overshadow a person’s ability to feel normal or experience the usual positive emotions that make up daily life. Instead, they zero in on what they think is wrong with their physical appearance and believe only when it is corrected can they be happy.


Many common symptoms can occur when someone has body dysmorphia and may include:

  • Constant preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws or defects in a person’s appearance
  • Believing the person is disfigured or deformed
  • Constantly looking in the mirror
  • Avoiding the mirror
  • Repetitive actions related to appearance such as touching an area or skin picking
  • Negatively comparing their appearance to other people
  • Refusing to believe opinions that they are not flawed
  • Experiencing high stress that affects their social life, work, school, and relationships
  • Isolating
  • Having unnecessary plastic surgery, often multiple times
  • Hiding body parts via things like makeup, clothing, or hats
  • Feeling anxiety, depression, and shame about appearance
  • Thoughts of suicide

Is Body Dysmorphia Considered an Eating Disorder?

Is body dysmorphia an eating disorder? No, the two conditions are separate and can both be diagnosed via criteria provided in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Body dysmorphia and eating disorders do have some similarities in terms of symptoms that people with either condition may experience. This includes being hyper-focused on appearance, body size, or shape. They may also frequently check their appearance or engage in compulsive exercise to influence a change in their body size. However, doing so does not mean the person has both an eating disorder and a body dysmorphic disorder.

Someone with body dysmorphia may also have an eating disorder, but they remain two separate diagnoses. A person with an eating disorder doesn’t focus on just one body part or area. Instead, their thoughts and obsessions center on their entire body and their weight. People with eating disorders engage in compensatory behaviors to try to change their size and weight, including restricting food, purging, and compulsive exercise. 

Because sometimes a person with body dysmorphia also has an eating disorder, many professional residential eating disorder treatment programs provide treatment for both conditions.

How is Body Dysmorphia Treated?

Someone with body dysmorphia may feel there is no way out of it without plastic surgery or miracle cures related to their physical self. However, this mental health disorder can be treated and overcome. The most effective way to treat body dysmorphia is by getting treatment from a professional facility that understands the intricacies of this mental health disorder. 

Therapists and doctors treating body dysmorphia will take into consideration the age of the patient, their history with the illness, and if they also have an eating disorder. From there, a comprehensive treatment plan can be devised to help the person heal emotionally and see themselves differently.

Therapy combinations provide people with multiple ways to reshape their relationships with their bodies and self-image. Particularly effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps the individual recognize their negative ingrained beliefs and restructure them. They learn to become more mindful, recognize potential triggers, and develop healthy coping skills to avoid falling into old patterns.

The use of medications in combination with therapy can also provide good results. Many people respond well to taking anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Treatment staff will make a decision about any need for FDA-approved medications and monitor the person for how they work. 

Contact Our Body Dysmorphia Treatment Center in Los Angeles, California

If you find yourself wondering “Is body dysmorphia an eating disorder?”, you or someone you love likely need professional treatment for one or both disorders. Trellis Recovery Centers offers focused, intensive treatment for body dysmorphia that helps adolescents aged 12 to 17 learn to have healthy new relationships with their body image. Our multi-disciplinary approach guides each young person through several types of therapy. The therapy is designed to help them embrace good mental health and learn to love themselves.

To talk to our admissions staff, contact us now. We are happy to answer any questions you have about how we can help you or your loved one.