Cocaine is a dangerous substance that some people use to cope with mental health disorders. Find out how abusing the drug can lead to worsened mental and physical health overall.

Cocaine can worsen the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Article at a Glance:

Body dysmorphic disorder is not an eating disorder. It is a disorder of obsessive-compulsive perception.

Someone with BDD may focus on a certain body part like face, hair, muscles, genitals, or skin.

Cocaine does not cause BDD but can worsen BDD, making it harder to treat.

Prevalence of Cocaine Abuse with BDD

A study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry looked at rates of substance use disorder (SUD) among people with BDD. This study examined the use of different types of drugs in a group of 176 people with BDD. It also looked at the magnitude of symptoms these people experienced: compulsive behavior, insight into one’s own disease, quality of life and social functioning.

This study found that about half had SUD at some point in their lives, and about a third had abused substances. The most commonly abused drug was alcohol. 9.1% percent admitted to a SUD with cocaine.

How does Cocaine Affect Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Since BDD is an obsessive-compulsive type disorder, cocaine use can worsen some of the symptoms. Cocaine can worsen anxietyparanoia and cause emotional swings. It is appealing for people with BDD because it can suppress appetite and cause weight loss. Some other symptoms of cocaine use are:

Can Cocaine Cause Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

No, cocaine by itself cannot cause BDD. However, it can make someone who is predisposed to develop it more likely to experience symptoms. Cocaine can also worsen symptoms in someone with BDD and make the disorder harder to treat.

Treatment Options for Cocaine Abuse and Co-Occurring BDD

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the standard therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder and has a strong place in the treatment of cocaine abuse disorders. CBT is a kind of talk therapy that helps a person have more realistic goals and perceptions of the world.

Treatment can be outpatient or inpatient, but someone with both BDD and a cocaine SUD can benefit from intensive inpatient treatment. Some people may need selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to make their symptoms easier to treat. SSRIs are used for different types of depression and anxiety disorders and can be helpful for BDD.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

BDD is a mental health disorder where a person is overly-preoccupied with a slight defect or flaw in their physical appearance. This defect may be real or perceived. BDD is not an eating disorder, it is a disorder of perception, but it can happen alongside an eating disorder. Areas of the body that someone with BDD may focus on are:

  • Breast size
  • Face  (e.g., acne, wrinkles, complexion, or nose appearance)
  • Genitalia
  • Hair appearance or thinness
  • Muscle size and tone (muscle dysmorphia)
  • Skin and vein appearance

Related Topic: Body dysmorphia treatment

Cocaine and other drug use can be dangerous when combined with serious mental health disorders. Substance use or abuse can be a way for someone to either self-treat the symptoms or to help “correct” for the flaws they perceive in their body. Since BDD is a disease of perception, using substances to mask the symptoms will not treat or cure the disease. No matter how much someone changes their body with cocaine (like with weight loss), they will still perceive themselves as flawed. Cocaine use may even make this worse as it has negative impacts on the body.

If you or a loved one live with an addiction, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how individualized treatment programs can address addiction and any co-occurring disorders, like BDD. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Mayo Clinic. “Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Mayo Clinic. “Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorde[…]ptoms and Causes.” 2017. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Grant, Jon E. “Substance Use Disorders in Individual[…]morphic Disorder.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2005. Accessed May 13, 2019.

National Institute of Health. “Table 23, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Body Dysmor[…]order Comparison.” June 2016. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.