Original Research

The prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder among South African university students

Antonia Dlagnikova, Rudolph Leon van Niekerk
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 21, No 3 | a668 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v21i3.668 | © 2015 Antonia Dlagnikova, Rudolph Leon van Niekerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 2014 | Published: 01 August 2015

About the author(s)

Antonia Dlagnikova, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Rudolph Leon van Niekerk, Department of Human Movement Science, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa

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Background. The prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) among South African students is explored in this article. BDD is regarded as an obsessive-compulsive-related disorder characterised by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance and expressed in repetitive behaviours or mental acts as a response to the appearance concerns, causing clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning. 

Objectives. To determine the prevalence of BDD among undergraduate students (N=395) at an inner-city university. 

Methods. Proportionate stratified random cluster sampling was used to select the sample. The students completed a demographics survey and the Body Image Disturbance Questionnaire. 

Results and conclusion. An overall prevalence rate of 5.1% was found in this study, which is similar to prevalence rates reported in existing literature among student populations. No clinically significant differences in the severity of the BDD were found on the demographic variables of gender, race or sexual orientation. However, students differed significantly in their experience of the severity of the disorder in terms of age, in that students over the age of 21 reported higher severity levels than students under the age of 21. Although the prevalence of the disorder compares with that in other countries, its severity seems to increase with age among South African students.


Body dysmorphic disorder; somatoform disorders; prevalence


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