What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?


Most of us have some aspect of our bodies that we wouldn’t mind changing. It could be a little extra belly fat, drooping eyelids, or sagging skin.

Plastic surgeons can address fixes like these to satisfy their patients and give them new confidence.

There is a small percentage of the population, however, who never feel better about their appearance because they struggle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, are obsessively preoccupied with perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. The operative word is ‘perceived.’

In reality, what they’re seeing is not nearly as prominent as they think it is. In many cases, it’s not even noticeable to others. Yet from their view point, the perceived flaw is so hideous and ugly that it negatively impacts every aspect of their lives.

Once referred to as “dysmorphophobia”, BDD causes severe distress to those who experience it. They will repeatedly look in the mirror or reflective surfaces and obsess over how terrible they think they look. They may avoid social or public situations where they feel people are staring at them and judging their perceived ugliness – even though there’s nothing physically wrong.

Sufferers may seek out the help of cosmetic surgeons or dermatological aestheticians to alleviate the problem. But to no avail because the condition is not physical. It’s mental. No matter how many procedures or treatments they try, they still see themselves as disfigured. In the meantime, they spend a lot of money they may not even have.

This is why ethical plastic surgeons tend to steer away from doing procedures on patients struggling with BDD.

Who Is Impacted By BDD?

BBD might not sound like a serious condition. It may seem easy enough to just ‘get over’ these perceived faults. But it simply doesn’t work that way. The brain is a powerful organ. And for those in the throes of the disorder who refuse to leave their homes, it can become dangerously isolating.

Not only are they fully convinced that they have a faulty nose, hair, skin, eyes, chin, lips, or overall body build, but they believe there is ABSOLUTELY no solution and they are doomed forever. It’s not surprising, therefore, that there’s an increased risk of suicide for those who struggle with BDD.

Late adolescence (ages 16-18) is typically the time that symptoms of BDD tend to emerge. But it can start showing up in a milder form around the age of 12. Because teenagers as a whole can be moody and generally dissatisfied with their appearance, BDD is often overlooked and may not be diagnosed until the sufferer is well into their 20s or even 30s.

BDD Is Not Isolated to Women

Females have been fed a steady diet of perfect body images by the media for years. Unrealistic expectations of how a female should look has driven women to despise their own bodies, suffer anxiety and depression, and even driven them to eating disorders. As such, BDD was once more prevalent in women.

That’s changing.

While some women are waking up to their own issues with BDD, males are now entering the BDD arena. That’s because media has started emphasizing the unrealistic male physique as well. In fact, in the past 25 years, men’s rate of dissatisfaction with their bodies has tripled.

As such, BDD is now becoming prevalent among men. Is it particularly problematic for teenage boys who are turning to steroids and also developing eating disorders to achieve this ‘perfect’ body that doesn’t exist. And as they continue to see no results because of their warped perception, they develop depression that can lead to drinking and drug problems.

Wanting to Look Your Best Is NOT a Disorder

Obviously, there’s a huge difference between feeling dissatisfied with a fixable problem and struggling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

If you are mentally healthy, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best! So if you’re ready to consult with a plastic surgeon about a procedure that will help you feel better about yourself, then contact us today!

In the meantime, if you think that you or someone you know may be struggling with undiagnosed BDD, you can connect with the BDD Foundation to get answers to your questions and find support.