Every time someone with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) looks in a mirror, they have an absolute, unwavering knowledge that they look ugly, unappealing and that everyone is staring at them in horror.
Someone with BDD has an imagined or very slight defect in how they look. They compulsively think about the flaw, and are obsessed with it.
Often symptoms develop during the teen years. This makes early diagnosis difficult, since most teens tend to be absorbed in their appearance.
Everyone has a slight sense of what this might be like, but with BDD, this preoccupation is so severe that daily life is completely out of sync.
Is BDD new? Many people would guess that it is a very modern problem, but not so. In the 1880s Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli noted patients who were obsessed with their “ugliness,” even though they looked unremarkably average, without any distortion or defect.
BDD is often called imagined ugliness.
Intensely painful. Devastating. When looking at the man (or woman) in the mirror, these are the feelings that many suffering from body dysmorphic disorder say they have.
Scientists aren’t sure of the causes of body dsymorphic disorder, but feel it may have something to do with how some brain neurotransmitters function in combination with cultural factors.
Primary features of body dysmorphic disorder:
- Obsession-inability to stop thinking about the perceived body part (or parts) that they feel are unsightly
- Compulsion– repeated behaviors such as checking mirrors frequently to examine the “flaw,” often asking others for reassurance about it, using makeup or clothing to hide the flaw
Serious cases of BDD have created shut-ins. They become convinced that their looks are so overwhelmingly different that they no longer go to work, or socialize. Some turn to extreme and frequent rounds of plastic surgery. All need psychological intervention and professional treatment to regain their lives from being held captive by their distorted perceptions.