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Supporting Your Colleagues: How to Help Someone with Body Dysmorphia in the Workplace

Supporting colleagues at work

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that affects people’s perception of their own physical appearance, leading to feelings of distress and dissatisfaction. In this article, we’ll discuss how to help someone with body dysmorphia in the workplace by understanding its impact, recognizing signs and symptoms, and providing support.

What is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), is a mental health condition characterized by an excessive preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s physical appearance. These perceived flaws are often minor or nonexistent, but to the person with BDD, they can cause significant emotional distress and interfere with daily functioning.

People with body dysmorphia may engage in repetitive behaviours, such as mirror checking, excessive grooming, or skin picking, in an attempt to fix or hide their perceived flaws. They may also avoid social situations, experience anxiety or depression, and have a negative impact on their work performance and relationships.

Understanding the Impact of Body Dysmorphia in the Workplace

Body dysmorphia can have a significant impact on an individual’s performance and well-being in the workplace. People with BDD may experience difficulty concentrating on their work due to their preoccupation with their appearance, leading to decreased productivity and possible job loss.

Moreover, individuals with body dysmorphia may struggle with self-esteem and social anxiety, which can lead to isolation and avoidance of workplace social events. This can impact their ability to form and maintain relationships with colleagues, further exacerbating feelings of loneliness and depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia

It’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of body dysmorphia in order to provide support and assistance to affected colleagues. Some common signs of BDD include:

  • Excessive preoccupation with a specific body part or aspect of appearance
  • Engaging in repetitive behaviours, such as mirror checking or grooming
  • Expressing persistent dissatisfaction with their appearance
  • Avoiding social situations or events due to concerns about their appearance
  • Seeking reassurance from others about their appearance
  • Experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem

How to Approach and Support Someone with Body Dysmorphia

If you suspect that a colleague may be struggling with body dysmorphia, it’s crucial to approach the situation with sensitivity and empathy. Follow these steps to provide support:

  1. Educate yourself about body dysmorphia: Understanding the condition will help you approach the situation with empathy and provide appropriate support.
  2. Choose the right time and place: Approach your colleague in a private and comfortable setting, ensuring that you have enough time for a meaningful conversation.
  3. Express your concern: Be honest and straightforward about your observations and concerns, using empathetic language and avoiding judgment.
  4. Listen actively: Allow your colleague to share their feelings and experiences, providing a safe and supportive space for them to open up.
  5. Offer resources and support: Encourage your colleague to seek professional help and share resources that may be helpful, such as support groups or counselling services.

Dos and Don’ts When Dealing with Body Dysmorphia in the Workplace

When supporting someone with body dysmorphia, it’s important to be aware of helpful and harmful behaviours. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


  • Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  • Offer support and encouragement
  • Provide resources and information about body dysmorphia
  • Promote a positive workplace environment
  • Encourage professional help-seeking


  • Minimize or dismiss their feelings
  • Offer unsolicited advice or solutions
  • Comment on their appearance, either positively or negatively
  • Encourage unhealthy behaviours or excessive focus on appearance
Effective Ways to Combat Body Dysmorphia

While supporting someone with body dysmorphia in the workplace, it’s essential to be aware of effective strategies for combating the condition. Some helpful approaches include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): A type of talk therapy that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours related to their body image.
  • Mindfulness and self-compassion practices: Encouraging mindfulness and self-compassion can help individuals develop a more balanced and accepting relationship with their bodies.
  • Encouraging healthy routines and self-care: Promoting a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise, healthy eating, and self-care practices can help improve overall well-being and self-esteem.
Creating a Supportive Workplace Environment for Those with Body Dysmorphia

Promoting a positive and inclusive workplace culture can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals with body dysmorphia. Employers and colleagues can create a supportive environment by:

  • Encouraging open communication and understanding of mental health issues
  • Providing access to employee assistance programs and mental health resources
  • Fostering a culture of respect, inclusivity, and body positivity
  • Offering flexible work arrangements for those who need additional support
Seeking Professional Help for Body Dysmorphia

It’s important for individuals with body dysmorphia to seek professional help in order to address their condition effectively. Encourage your colleague to consider options such as therapy, support groups, or psychiatric treatment, depending on their needs and preferences.

One resource to consider is The Counselling Clinic, which offers comprehensive mental health services, including support for individuals with body dysmorphia.

Resources for Dealing with Body Dysmorphia

There are several resources available for individuals struggling with body dysmorphia and their supporters, including:

  • The International OCD Foundation
  • The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders
  • The National Eating Disorders Association

Supporting a colleague with body dysmorphia is an important responsibility that requires understanding, empathy, and action. By recognizing the signs and symptoms, providing appropriate support, and promoting a positive workplace environment, colleagues can help those with body dysmorphia overcome their challenges and thrive in the workplace.


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