Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD is an anxiety disorder closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Someone may have BDD if they are obsessed by their body image or by any physical flaws (perceived or real) that they may or may not have. This obsession may manifest itself in excessive worries and anxiety over their appearance or obsessive behaviours such as an overuse of mirrors or the reverse, a complete avoidance of and aversion to seeing their image in a mirror.
People with BDD do not see themselves as others see them. They see a distorted image of themselves – they can see themselves or the area of their body concerned as out of proportion, too big, too small, disfigured or unsymmetrical. BDD can affect mental health when it starts to intrude on a person’s life as a whole – sometimes causing depression, self-harm, loneliness (they avoid going out in public), substance abuse and addictions, eating disorders or even suicidal thoughts.
The most common areas of concern for people with BDD include:
Other areas of concern can include the size of the genitals, muscles, breasts, thighs, buttocks, and even the presence of certain body odours. Muscle dysmorphia effects particularly men – an obsession with muscle building which can also manifest itself in steroid overuse or substance abuse.
BDD can affect both men and women, but it tends to start in adolescence. It is thought that 0.5% of the UK population suffers from BDD.
It is not known what causes body dysmorphic disorder, but it is thought that it may result from a combination of causes such as:
Someone may be suffering from BDD if they display one or more of the following behaviours:
It is important to seek help before BDD becomes too severe. The first step is to visit your GP who may then refer you to a specialist therapist or psychiatrist to treat the condition. The treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder usually takes the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). SSRI antidepressant medication may also be prescribed to decrease the obsessive and compulsive behaviours which are a feature of this illness.
Further information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder can be found on the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation website.