Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious and under-recognized mental disorder characterized by a preoccupation with minor or imagined physical flaws. BDD sufferers agonize over their looks, often focusing on skin tone, acne, wrinkles, scars, thinning hair, body weight, or the shape and size of body parts, such as the eyes, nose, and lips. To those around them, BDD sufferers often appear normal or even attractive. But when describing themselves, terms like ‘ugly and hideous’ or ‘deformed’ are regularly used. Desperation may drive a person with BDD to seek out cosmetic and dermatological procedures. In fact, research suggests that approximately 6-20 percent of cosmetic surgery patients and up to 12 percent of dermatological patients suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
In addition to seeking out unnecessary cosmetic procedures, individuals with BDD may expend several hours every day worrying about their physical appearance and performing repetitious behaviors known as ‘compulsions.’ Examples include frequent hair combing, skin picking, and staring in the mirror (mirror-checking). Compulsions are repeated in an effort to improve appearance and ease anxiety; however, these same behaviors may consistently get in the way of performing simple activities, such as getting dressed, going to work, or visiting with family and friends.
Consequences Of BDD
BDD has the potential to produce numerous consequences that can worsen if left untreated. Over time, BDD suffers may experience feelings of depression and hopelessness, as well as work and social disabilities – or even total isolation. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also possible in severe cases of BDD, with evidence showing that the completed suicide rate among BDD patients is approximately 45 times higher than that of the general U.S. population.
BDD Is Not Vanity
BDD is a chronic condition that should never be confused with vanity. Because so much value is placed on the image they see in the mirror, BDD sufferers may be labeled as narcissistic or vain. Quite the opposite, people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder tend not to admire or take pride in their looks, but instead struggle with persistent self-doubt and body-related insecurities.