What is BDD?

Signs of body dysmorphic disorder

  • Are you very concerned or distressed about appearance flaws that friends, family members, or doctors tell you are minor or nonexistent?
  • Do your appearance concerns interfere with your ability to go to work or school, take care of things at home, maintain grades, or socialize?
  • Do you spend a lot of time trying to fix or change your appearance, but still feel dissatisfied?

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If you are suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), please know that you are not alone. In fact, recent studies suggest that BDD is relatively common and affects close to 2% of the population.

BDD is a mental illness characterized by a severe preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s appearance. Any body part can be the focus of concern. The most common areas of concern involve the face (e.g., nose, eyes, and chin), hair, and skin. Other body parts of concern include stomach, buttocks, teeth, weight, breasts, thighs, eyebrows, small body build, legs, lips, arms, hips, cheeks, and ears. Sufferers often describe themselves as hideous, deformed, or ugly. BDD usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence. It affects both men and women, regardless of age, ethnicity, and cultural background.

Individuals with BDD often spend hours a day worrying about their appearance. In addition, people with BDD engage in compulsive or ritualized behaviors to reduce their distress or improve their appearance. Examples include frequently checking the mirror or going out of the way to avoid reflective surfaces, covering up the perceived defect with makeup or clothing, picking at slight imperfections in the skin, following a rigid grooming routine, or seeking cosmetic surgery (often multiple times).

BDD is NOT vanity. It is a serious and often debilitating condition. Individuals who suffer from BDD often experience severe depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Furthermore, their appearance concerns cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Just getting up in the morning and going to school or work can be a daily challenge for people with BDD.