Psychological Medicine

Original Article

The prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder: a population-based survey

a1 Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
a2 University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany
a3 Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
a4 University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Article author query
rief w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
buhlmann u   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
wilhelm s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
borkenhagen a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
brahler e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a highly distressing and impairing disorder characterized by a preoccupation with imagined or slight physical defects in appearance. Well designed studies on its prevalence and on base rates for diagnostic criteria are rare. Therefore this study aimed to reveal prevalence rates of BDD in the general population and to examine clinical features associated with BDD.

Method. Of 4152 selected participants 2552, aged 14–99 years, participated in this German nationwide survey. Participants were carefully selected to ensure that the sample was representative; they were visited by a study assistant who provided instructions and help if needed. Participation rate was 62·3%. DSM-IV criteria for BDD, as well as subthreshold features (e.g. individuals who consider some part(s) of their body as ugly or disfigured, but do not fulfill all BDD criteria) were examined. We also assessed suicidal ideation associated with the belief of having an ugly body part, as well as the desire for cosmetic surgery. Furthermore, somatization symptoms were assessed.

Results. The prevalence of current BDD was 1·7% (CI 1·2–2·1%). Individuals with BDD reported higher rates of suicidal ideation (19% v. 3%) and suicide attempts due to appearance concerns (7% v. 1%) than individuals who did not meet criteria for BDD. Somatization scores were also increased in individuals with BDD, relative to those without. BDD was associated with lower financial income, lower rates of living with a partner, and higher rates of unemployment.

Conclusions. Our study shows that self-reported BDD is relatively common and associated with significant morbidity.

c1 Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Marburg, Gutenbergstrasse 18, 35032 Marburg, Germany. (Email: