Body Dismorphic Disorder

I need to post a follow up to Beauty Freaks, after a compassionate reader informed me of the mental illness called Body Dismorphic Disorder or BDD.

Beauty Freak post included a few individuals which likely suffer from BDD, and I am ashamed to say this didn’t even dawn on me when I wrote the post. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in this societies obsession with beauty, that I forget there are disorders that are real, and totally debilitating, that cause people to engage behaviors such as plastic surgery.

Below is an exerpt description of BDD, read more here.

And thank you B for pointing out my lack of compassion on this topic.


Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder, which involves a disturbed body image. It is generally diagnosed in those who are extremely critical of their physique or self image, despite the fact there may be no noticeable disfigurement or defect.

Most people wish they could change or improve some aspect of their physical appearance, but people suffering from BDD, generally considered of normal appearance, believe that they are so unspeakably hideous that they are unable to interact with others or function normally for fear of ridicule and humiliation at their appearance. They tend to be very secretive and reluctant to seek help because they are afraid others will think them vain or they may feel too embarrassed to do so.

Ironically BDD is often misunderstood as a vanity driven obsession, whereas it is quite the opposite; people with BDD believe themselves to be profoundly ugly or defective.

BDD combines obsessive and compulsive aspects which has linked it to the OCD spectrum disorders among psychologists. People with BDD may engage in compulsive mirror checking behaviors or mirror avoidance, typically think about their appearance for more than one hour a day, and in severe cases may drop all social contact and responsibilities as they become home-bound. The disorder is linked to an unusually high suicide rate among all mental disorders.

A German study has shown that 1-2% of the population meet all the diagnostic criteria of BDD, with a larger percentage showing milder symptoms of the disorder (Psychological Medicine, vol 36, p 877). Chronically low self-esteem is characteristic of those with BDD due to the value of oneself being so closely linked with their perceived appearance. The prevalence of BDD is equal in men and women, and causes chronic social anxiety for those suffering from the disorder[1].

Phillips & Menard (2006) found the completed suicide rate in patients with BDD to be 45 times higher than in the general US population. This rate is more than double that of those with depression and three times as high as those with bipolar disorder[2]. There has also been a suggested link between undiagnosed BDD and a higher than average suicide rate among people who have undergone cosmetic surgery[3].

Other BDD Links:

BDD Central 

Mayo Clinic BDD information

Information in BDD in Children

This entry was posted in Body Image. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Body Dismorphic Disorder

  1. Pingback: Body Dismorphic Disorder

  2. Joey says:

    I wonder though, in a way – do you show a lack of compassion for those with eating disorders? In that you’ll criticise their use of pro-ana websites, their hiding of their illness and their reluctance to get help – but these are all direct symptoms of the illness, just like plastic sugery is a direct result of BDD.
    I don’t know – just a thought. I’m still trying to figure if you’re more angry with anorexics who use proanorexic sites, or girls who use anorexia ‘techniques’ (but don’t have an actual eating disorder) for weightloss due to societal pressures.
    Anyway, just a thought.

  3. Danyel says:

    Hey Mamma V! Haven’t heard from you in a while, have you read my blog or better question, do ya read it? LOL I read my blog sometimes after I post and I’m kinda random!! :)
    yeah- that’s why I mentioned I thought perhaps it was BBD when I saw your post a while back … I had seen a documentary on it and this girl had it and she was BEAUTIFUL. I mean, drop dead gorgeous, and she thought she had huge veins going across her face (SHE DID NOT HAVE ANY) it was so sad hearing her talk about it. I just wanted to hug her and say, “I wish you could see that you’re beautiful”..

    It’s so sad, I learned about it in one of my classes to!!!

  4. Jennie says:

    I learned about BDD when I was diagnosed with it several years ago. it isn’t just ugliness but can also can cause the sufferer to see themselves as enormously fat – it led directly to my anorexia. my mother suffers from it as well and I was suicidal just the other night when she transferred her condition to me. it frequently leads to suicide, self harm (cutting usually) and anorexia. I am surprised you haven’t covered BDD before this, it is surprisingly unknown considering the damage it can cause.

    I see myself in the mirror the same way every time, big or small I see myself as enormous, lumpy and flabby. I frequently get mad at people who move too close because I think they are about to bump into me (about 1 meter away). I have been known to pinch and scratch at my face and body trying to remove my skin and the layers and rolls of fat – I was doing this up to my hospitalization when my waist was 17 inches – I was and still am convinced I was huge,

    The most important thing with BDD is to have a person you can trust 100% to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. it isn’t just about saying “you’re beautiful” or “you’re slim” because a BDD sufferer will discount it. this person also has to be able to say ‘that outfit is unflattering’ or ‘you’re retaining water today’ as well as compliments because you have to lay your trust in them and let them be your eyes. it is a very hard role and it is rough on both. I can trust my husband and my doctors and even that is pretty hard. I do get suicidal and cripplingly depressed, but I work hard at it and occasionally I am rewarded by glimpses of a relatively normal person.

    unfortunately it is habit to put my trust in my mother, she is diseased as I am and she makes me worse – she has encouraged me to starve, to take up smoking to lose weight and to focus on my weight above all else. I am finally learning how damaging our relationship is, and am taking some time away from her to sort myself out.

    my piece Ugly is a very personal piece looking into my struggle with this horrible condition – you can find it here
    a lot of my works look into body issues surprisingly enough..

  5. K says:

    Maybe you should re-read Joey’s comment a few times???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *