Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD for short is a very severe mental illness affecting an estimated 1.7 to 2.4 percent of the population. Women and men are affected equally. People with this disorder are preoccupied with some defect that causes them great distress.

For example, one woman with BDD was concerned about her hands. She thought her hands were so ugly (even though they weren't), she wore gloves everywhere she went to hid the defect. She even wore gloves to bed with her because she couldn't stand the sight of her hands. 

The distress over the body part is so severe and the people affected feel so ugly they don't want to leave the house. They will go hungry instead of going shopping from groceries from the store. They feel that their looks inconvenience other people.

Any laughing or joking around between people out in public makes the person with BDD feel it is directed towards them personally. They are irrational in that manner but it is because of the mental illness they posses. They can't help it!

BDD is believed to start mostly during early adolescence. 

What causes BDD is not known exactly. BDD is believed to involve faulty neurotransmission in the brain. People with BDD commonly have major depression and other mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Stuff that is believed to influence or even cause BDD includes experience of traumatic events or emotional conflicts during childhood such as abuse. Low self esteem and parents and others that were critical to them about their appearance. 

A skinny, toned woman, looking into a mirror behind her and seeing a fat overweight woman insteadTheir perception

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Concerns/Situations

In a couple of instances, anytime after entering a room, the person with BDD has to close the blinds because they don't want anyone to see them. If the blinds are open, they are too distressed to function. 

The areas of most concern for those with BDD are:

1) Skin imperfections -these include wrinkles, scars, acne and blemishes - the person with BDD will commonly seek dermatological help to fix skin issues; however, they are never satisfied with the result from any procedure done. This is why dermatological and surgical procedures are highly contraindicated in people with BDD. There have been reports of surgeons and dermatologists receiving violence as a result for not "correcting" the issue. Surgeons and dermatologists have even been murdered by people with BDD that are unhappy with their procedure(s) - very scary! 

2) Hair - This includes volume of hair, receding hair, lack of hair and even body hair

3) Facial Appearances - Most commonly the nose is of concern but it may involve the shape and size of any feature. 

One Man's Horror

One man with body dysmorphic disorder from Films on Demand for Educational Purposes described his disorder as living in hell. He woke up terrified about his appearance. He also had to have blinds closed when entering a room. He suffered from major depression which is very common in those with body dysmorphic disorder. He was average looking but insisted that he was ugly in every photo taken of him.

He couldn't live on with such anxiety and terror about life. His mother found him after returning from the store and he had hung himself. He was too unhappy and distressed to handle it anymore. He left no suicide letter.

A history of suicidal ideation primarily due to BDD is reported to occur between 45-75% of those with BDD. Past suicide attempts are reported at a staggering high rate of 22-24%! 


Disability is great in those with body dysmorphic disorder. They will skip school so no one can see them. They will stare in the mirror for 2-4 hours at a time. They will place mirrors at all different angles around the bedroom.

They obsess over the mirror. Hospitalization rates for those with BDD is around 45%, very high. Important appointments are missed because those with BDD don't want to go out. They will also miss social situations with friends because they are terrified about their looks. Work is difficult, and work is missed due to this disorder. As you can see it is very disabling. 

Effective Treatment 

Those with BDD explain their disorder on the forum at incase you are curious. It was reported at BDDCentral that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is very effective and satisfying to those with BDD. 

A study shows that "cognitive-behavioral therapy that specifically targets BDD symptoms can result in significant improvements in symptoms and ability to function in daily life." 

Other therapy that is common is anti-depressant medications especially SSRI's or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors; however, reports from BDDCentral don't present much effectiveness from SSRIs. If they are depressed, an anti-depressant definitely should help with depression but it doesn't always help with the recurring obsession over their looks or perceived flaws. 

› Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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