Body dysmorphic Disorder – BDD advice

Body dysmorphic Disorder - BDD advice

BDD advice: Body Dysmorphic Disorder isn’t about feeling spotty and fat – it’s about not leaving the house for months in case people laugh. We look at BDD causes, symptoms, treatments and tips.

Fearing the looking glass: The truth behind body dysmorphic disorder

We fear many things in life. Fear is part of the human condition. We fear spiders, mice, and dogs because they may harm us. We fear any distance off the ground from the top of the ladder to being sat in an aeroplane. We even fear germs and disease. But for some, nothing compares to the fear of waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror to see something you can only describe as ugly, deformed, or disgusting staring back at you and fearing anyone else seeing this to the point you don’t leave the house or it can take you two hours to get ready to get the milk off the doorstep. Fearing being laughed at. Being unloved with your friends and family talking about you behind your back and seeing pitying and horrified looks wherever you go. That is what it can be like everyday for the 1 in 100 people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

What is Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)?

Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD is a condition where the sufferer believes they are severely physically flawed. It’s a form of Obessive Compulsive Disorder leading the sufferer to perform ritualistic and extreme actions to correct and hide the perceived problem.

Symptoms of Body dysmorphic disorder

Some symptoms of BDD can include:

  • Excessive grooming or cleaning.
  • Eating disorders – From anorexia to emotional eating.
  • Agoraphobia and social phobia.
  • Obsessive mirror checking – No being able to pass a shiny surface without looking
  • Mirror/camera avoidance – panic over being photographed or filmed.
  • Obsession with beauty products and plastic surgery.
  • Depression and self harm.
  • Obsessive behaviour over appearance that affects everyday life such as work or college.

Body dysmorphia – through the media looking glass

Despite being discovered in 1886, the condition has only officially been recognised since the 1980s, meaning little research has been done into the cause and treatment of BDD.

It gets a lousy press in my opinion. The media shows glamorous models and celebrities claiming to have had for a month what appears to be little more than low confidence, women on talk shows who have had 80 surgeries and are judged as circus freaks, or internet stories about people cutting off legs as the faces of BDD.

The press even like to call it “Imagined ugliness syndrome” – which is deeply offensive to health care specialists, BDD sufferers and their families.

While the flaws may not be there for real, the distress is very real. No one refers to Anorexia as “imagined fat syndrome” – because when an anorexic looks in a mirror, they are not “imagining” what they are looking at. Their mind is throwing up this distorted image that they can not distinguish from reality. It’s the same for someone suffering from BDD.

Are BDD and anorexia the same?

While some sufferers do develop eating disorders, BDD is not one itself. Nor is anorexia the only eating disorder a person with BDD might develop. In fact, sufferers are just as likely to emotionally eat and be overweight as they are to starve and they are not all models and stars. As I myself have battled with the condition, I know what it can really be like. Every sufferer is different but it’s still something you don’t just snap out off after a nip and tuck and two weeks on a tropical island. It’s a real illness. Maybe not one you can see, but it affects the lives of 1 in 100 people.

So let’s set a few truths straight!

BDD is NOT about vanity.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this, looking at some of the symptoms. Mirror checking, excessive grooming, obssessing over appearance. BDD is actually a form of OCD. In OCD, a sufferer will perform excessive actions ritualistically such as cleaning or checking the locks because they believe it gives them control over a problem and not doing those actions could result in something bad. It’s the same with BDD. They perform these actions in order to be “normal” and not doing so will cause them harm.

Some people worry that BDD suffers also judge their own looks. In fact, the opposite is true. A sufferer doesn’t care about your appearance because they are too worried about their own! Actually, most sufferers I know find they have the ability to see EVERYONE else as beautiful, not matter what they look like. The issue is a personal one and is not applied to everyone else.

Body dysmorphia affects both men and women

BDD equally affects men. In fact doctors, find it easier to diagnose male sufferers than females because women already tend to put a lot into appearance and men as a stereotype tend not to – so the number of diagnosed cases of men is slightly higher.

There is no shame in being a guy with BDD. You are certainly never alone. One male sufferer, Stephen Westwood, has released a book of his own experiences with BDD “suicide junkies”, detailing his own personal struggles with the disease and his road to recovery.

BDD can be caused by anything

What causes BDD? The pressure on women to look a certain way is tough, especially for young girls. But what actually triggers BDD is not always the media. It can range from problems in childhood, pressure at work or school to perform, depression, divorce and a host of other causes.

Rachel Baughan, author of