Prevalence of and associations between body dysmorphic concerns, obsessive beliefs and social anxiety




Physical attractiveness has been of concern in different cultures and at different times. Physical attractiveness can influence one's thoughts and actions, and concerns regarding body image can be destructive, giving rise to psychological problems. The purpose of the present study was to determine the prevalence of body dysmorphic concerns, related sex differences and comorbidity with social anxiety and obsessive beliefs.


Using a stratified and cluster sampling procedure, 1,200 males and females were randomly selected. Self-report measures on body image, social anxiety and obsessive beliefs were distributed of which 843 completed questionnaires (54.9% males and 45.1% females) were returned (return rate of 70.25%). Therefore, data pertaining to 463 males and 380 females ranging in age from 17 to 20 years with a mean age of 18.12 years (SD = 1.06) were analyzed.


Findings suggest a prevalence rate of 19.1% for body dysmorphic disorder, 23.6% for social anxiety and 8.8% for obsessive beliefs. Both social anxiety and obsessive beliefs were found to be comorbid with body dysmorphic concerns. The percentage of individuals reporting comorbid social anxiety (12.9%) was greater than that of those reporting comorbid obsessive beliefs (6.4%). Males with body dysmorphic concerns reported more obsessive beliefs (8.2% versus 4.1%), while their female counterparts reported more social anxiety (23.4% versus 4.2%).


In males, body image concerns appear to be more cognitive in quality, while in females, body image concerns seem more emotional in tone. As the measures used do not yield formal diagnoses, findings should be viewed with caution.