Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Wojciak, Armeda

First Committee Member

Priest, Jacob

Second Committee Member

Liu, William

Third Committee Member

Schmidt, Renita

Fourth Committee Member

Kelly, Mitchell


Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a debilitating condition affecting more than two percent of the general population. Typical age of onset is between 12 to 13 years of age with two thirds of individuals with BDD experiencing symptom onset before age 18, when children and adolescents typically still live in the familial home. Despite the highly debilitating nature of the disorder, the alarming rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among individuals diagnosed with BDD, and the relational problems that exist for people with BDD, there is virtually no research evaluating how relationships and attachment plays a role in the development, maintenance, or remission of this disorder. This study fills a gap in the literature regarding the lived relationship experiences of individuals diagnosed with BDD. Eight participants who struggle with BDD were interviewed. A phenomenological approach was used to capture the experiences of participants. As a result, six essential themes and 17 thematic elements emerged from the data: (1) Abject Nature of BDD, (2) BDD’s Negative Impact on Relationships, (3) Childhood Maltreatment and BDD, (4) Systemic Nature of BDD, (5) Relationships as Motivation for Working Toward Recovery, and (6) Strengths and Weaknesses in Mental Health Services for BDD. The construction of three relational cycles emerged as well from the data: Fear of Infidelity/Abandonment Cycle, Shame, Guilt and Isolation Cycle, and Impact of Positive Partnerships on BDD Cycle. One theoretical model was developed: BDD as a Distraction from Relational Pain Model. Suggestions for clinical implications of these Cycles and Model, and future research implications are also provided.


Attachment, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Body Image, Parent-child, Relationships


xv, 212 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 186-202).


Copyright © 2018 Heather Marie Morgan-Sowada

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020