13 Things You Need To Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It’s not just another way of saying low self-esteem.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

First of all, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious mental illness.

 
 

First of all, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious mental illness.

 
 

It’s a psychiatric disorder related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People with BDD spend at least an hour per day (but often even longer) thinking about a flaw in their appearance that’s either minor or not there at all, says Danyale McCurdy-McKinnon, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and clinical psychology director of the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight Clinic. About 2.5% of adults in the U.S. have a diagnosis of BDD, says Sari Fine Shepphird, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and author of 100 Questions & Answers About Anorexia Nervosa.

 
 

BDD seems to occur just about evenly in men and women, though men are more likely to have preoccupations with muscle size or genitals, says Fine Shepphird. In fact, the subset of BDD called muscle dysmorphia (which is characterized by distorted thoughts about muscle size, shape, and leanness) is almost exclusively diagnosed in men.

 
 
 

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A person with BDD might be focused on something about their appearance that’s real or imagined.

 
 

A person with BDD might be focused on something about their appearance that's real or imagined.

 
 

For example, they might think their nose is distractingly huge or misshapen when it’s objectively ordinary. Or they might be focused on something that is actually there, like acne or a scar. Whether the object of their focus is something real or imagined, a person with BDD would experience consuming preoccupation with it and also believe that their “flaw” makes them hideous or even disfigured, says McCurdy-McKinnon.

 
 
 

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Obsessive behaviors and intrusive thoughts are hallmarks of BDD.

 
 

Obsessive behaviors and intrusive thoughts are hallmarks of BDD.

 
 

People with BDD engage in compulsive or repetitive behaviors, explains Fine Shepphird, like constant mirror checking, obsessively picking at their skin or hair, or excessively exercising, grooming, or comparing themselves to others

 
 

In severe cases, people may also seek cosmetic surgery to “correct” whatever they perceive is wrong. These grooming or checking behaviors are time-consuming and life-disrupting and can even feel intrusive and unwanted, like the person is unable to prevent or stop them.

 
 
 

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Which is not the same thing as the average person’s dissatisfaction with their appearance.

 
 

Which is not the same thing as the average person's dissatisfaction with their appearance.

 
 

It’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious or even wish you could tweak something about your appearance. But BDD comes with more serious and disruptive thoughts and behaviors, says McCurdy-McKinnon. Someone who does not have BDD might say something like “My thighs are big; it’s tough to find jeans I like.” A person with BDD might say, “My thighs are giant. They are so big that I’m hideous. I have to hide them.” She says that someone with BDD might use words like “disgusting,” “hideous,” or “grotesque,” and that these words would reflect their deep-rooted beliefs about their appearance, as opposed to being a passing comment.

 
 
 

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

 
 
 
 
 

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