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Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Gender differences and prevalence in a Pakistani medical student population

Ather M Taqui1*, Mehrine Shaikh1, Saqib A Gowani1, Fatima Shahid1, Asmatullah Khan1, Syed M Tayyeb1, Minahil Satti1, Talha Vaqar1, Saman Shahid1, Afreen Shamsi1, Hammad A Ganatra1 and Haider A Naqvi2

Author Affiliations

1 Medical College, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Section of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:20  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-20

Published: 9 April 2008



Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect which causes significant distress or impairment in functioning. Few studies have assessed gender differences in BDD in a non clinical population. Also no study assessed BDD in medical students. This study was designed to determine the point prevalence of BDD in Pakistani medical students and the gender differences in prevalence of BDD, body foci of concern and symptoms of BDD.


The medical students enrolled in a medical university in Karachi, Pakistan filled out a self-report questionnaire which assessed clinical features of BDD. BDD was diagnosed according to the DSM-IV criteria.


Out of the 156 students, 57.1% were female. A total of 78.8% of the students reported dissatisfaction with some aspect of their appearance and 5.8% met the DSM-IV criteria for BDD. The male to female ratio for BDD was 1.7. Regarding gender differences in body foci of concern, the top three reported foci of concern in male students were head hair (34.3%), being fat (32.8%), skin (14.9%) and nose(14.9%), whereas in females they were being fat (40.4%), skin (24.7%) and teeth (18%). Females were significantly more concerned about being fat (p = 0.005). Male students were significantly more concerned about being thin (p = 0.01) and about head hair (p = 0.012).


BDD is fairly common in our medical student population, with a higher prevalence in males. Important gender differences in BDD symptomatology and reported body foci of concern were identified which reflected the influence of media on body image perception. The impact of cultural factors on the prevalence as well as gender differences in BDD symptomatology was also established.