Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.
A person with BDD tends to have cosmetic surgery, and even if the surgery is successful, does not think it was and is unhappy with the outcome.
You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to "fix" your perceived flaw. Afterward, you may feel a temporary satisfaction, but often the anxiety returns and you may resume searching for a way to fix your perceived flaw.
Body dysmorphic disorder can seriously affect daily life, often affecting work, social life and relationships.
Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:
- Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can't be seen or appears minor
- Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
- Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
- Engaging in behaviors aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
- Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
- Constantly comparing your appearance with others
- Always seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
- Having perfectionist tendencies
- Seeking frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Avoiding social situations
- Being so preoccupied with appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, school or other areas of functioning
You may obsess over one or more parts of your body. The feature that you focus on may change over time. The most common features people obsess about include:
- Face, such as nose, complexion, wrinkles, acne and other blemishes
- Hair, such as appearance, thinning and baldness
- Skin and vein appearance
- Breast size
- Muscle size and tone
Although BDD is not the same as OCD, there are some similarities. For instance, the person may have to repeat certain acts, such as combing their hair, applying make-up, or picking their skin to make it "smooth".
BDD can also lead to depression, self-harm and even thoughts of suicide.
The cause of BDD is not clear. It may be genetic or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphic disorder may result from a combination of causes, such as:
Brain differences. Abnormalities in brain structure or neurochemistry may play a role in causing body dysmorphic disorder.
Genes. Some studies show that body dysmorphic disorder is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Environment. Your environment, life experiences and culture may contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, especially if they involve negative social evaluations about your body or self-image, or even childhood neglect or abuse.