Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition that affects between 2 and 3% of the population. It affects both men and women equally. The condition is characterized by intense feelings of dissatisfaction with a particular aspect of one’s appearance. While it’s normal to not like an aspect of your appearance, when you are struggling with BDD, you find it extremely difficult to tolerate seeing or thinking about this part of your body and may spend hours a day trying to hide or correct the perceived flaw. Furthermore, the aspect of your appearance that is upsetting you is typically minor or unnoticeable in the eyes of others. BDD causes a great deal of distress and impairment, and it is common for people with BDD to be unable to regularly attend school, work, and social events. Examples of things that can upset someone struggling with Body Dysmorphia include:
- Thinking a certain area of your body is too fat
- Intense dissatisfaction with marks or blemishes on your skin and/or face
- Strong negative feelings about your height
- Not liking the tone/complexion of your skin
- Not liking the shape of a specific body part such as your nose, wrists, ears, eyelashes etc.
- Excessive worry around hair thinning or hair loss (for both males and females)
- Thinking that you should be more muscular (usually for boys/men)
- Believing your breasts to be too small (for women)
- A preoccupation with the perceived smallness of your genitalia (for men)
Compulsive Behaviors and Avoidance
If you are struggling with Body Dysmorphia, you may also engage in certain compulsive behaviors in an attempt to correct or hide your perceived flaw/s.
- Camouflaging/hiding (with clothing, makeup, hair, hats, or by holding your body in a certain position)
- Seeking reassurance from others about your appearance
- Excessively comparing your appearance with others
- Avoiding certain places and events / not leaving the house
- Checking in mirrors
- Avoiding mirrors
- Picking at marks and blemishes
- Seeking surgery (often multiple times on the same area)
- Excessive grooming
- Excessive exercise
- Changing clothes excessively
The recommended treatment for BDD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If symptoms do not respond to therapy alone, it is recommended to add a medication (typically an SSRI) prescribed by a psychiatrist or a primary care physician.