Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Most of us have something we don't like about our appearance — a crooked nose, an uneven smile, or eyes that are too large or too small. And though we may fret about our imperfections, they don’t interfere with our daily lives. People who have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) think about their real or perceived flaws for a consuming amount of time each day. They can't control their negative thoughts and don't believe people who tell them that they look fine. Their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning. They may miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws. They may even undergo unnecessary plastic surgeries to correct perceived imperfections, never finding satisfaction with the results.

Characteristics of BDD

  • BDD is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one's appearance.
  • People with BDD can dislike any part of their body, although they often find fault with their hair, skin, nose, chest, or stomach. In reality, a perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent. But for someone with BDD, the flaw is significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.
  • BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens, and research shows that it affects men and women almost equally. About one percent of the U.S. population has BDD.
  • The causes of BDD are unclear, but certain biological and environmental factors may contribute to its development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors such as malfunctioning of serotonin in the brain, personality traits, and life experiences.

Symptoms of BDD

  • People with BDD suffer from obsessions about their appearance that can last for hours or up to an entire day. Hard to resist or control, these obsessions make it difficult for people with BDD to focus on anything but their imperfections. This can lead to low self-esteem, avoidance of social situations, and problems at work or school.
  • People with severe BDD may avoid leaving their homes altogether and may even have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt.
  • BDD sufferers may perform some type of compulsive or repetitive behavior to try to hide or improve their flaws although these behaviors usually give only temporary relief. Examples are listed below:
    • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
    • comparing body part to others' appearance
    • seeking surgery
    • checking in a mirror
    • avoiding mirrors
    • skin picking
    • excessive grooming
    • excessive exercise
    • changing clothes excessively