Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Strong evidence – there is lots of high-quality evidence that some young people find this treatment option helpful.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy where your therapist helps you to learn about how your feelings, thoughts and behaviours affect each other and keep you stuck in unnecessary, upsetting or harmful cycles. Your professional will also help you to find ways to change this. 

CBT is used as a treatment for a range of problems and a specific form of CBT is developed for each type of problem. Cognitiverefers to the events that take place in your mind (e.g. thoughts, images, memories or processes like worry). Behaviour” is what you do (e.g. escaping, avoiding or checking), so CBT involves looking at both of these and how they are connected. 

During CBT your therapist will help you to learn how to refocus your attention away from your appearance and re-engage with activities that will improve your mood and your everyday life. Your therapist might suggest that you try attention-training exercises to help reduce any self-consciousness that you might feel. 

Your therapist will also support you to reduce and stop:  

  • comparing your appearance to others 
  • worrying excessively about your appearance 
  • camouflaging certain parts of your appearance  
  • rituals such as checking your appearance or spending lots of time on your appearance  

Your therapist will usually practice these things with you during your sessions and suggest ways that you can practice in between sessions (often called homework). As you start to challenge your fears you will feel anxious, but the anxiety will reduce over time and your professional will help you learn how to cope with it. 

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We’d also like to set optional analytics to help us improve it. We won’t set optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We’d like to set non-essential cookies, such as Google Analytics, to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information on how these cookies work, please see our Cookies page. If you are 16 or under, please ask a parent or carer for consent before accepting.