Body Dysmorphic Disorder

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a condition that causes obsessive thinking about a supposed physical flaw that is either imagined or hardly noticeable to others. The condition often surfaces during the teenage years, when we are most likely to be concerned with the physical changes of adolescence.

Social media can also magnify or contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, by giving opportunities to constantly compare oneself with others. Many people with BDD find themselves compulsively checking the perceived flaw in the mirror or photographs. 

Although many individuals may find themselves irritated by a real or imagined physical imperfection, sufferers from BDD are likely to spend hours every day obsessing and worrying about theirs. Some may also find themselves taking excessive measures to correct the flaw such as surgery.

Sufferers of BDD often feel so repelled or offended by their perceived flaw that they attempt to hide it, or even themselves, from others. In severe cases, BDD can lead to social isolation, depression, self-harm or agoraphobia.

Some people with BDD cannot bear to look at themselves at all, while others are forever looking at themselves in the mirror, obsessing about their looks and feeling distraught at what they say. They will often attempt to find reassurance by pointing out the flaws to others, which can be misconstrued as fishing for compliments.

What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

The likely culprits are:

  • Being bullied by someone at school, home or work and as a result wanting to disappear from view or keep a low profile.
  • Being laughed at and humiliated because of something you said or mispronounced, for example when reading out loud in class. 
  • Being made to feel worthless or inadequate by an abusive parent, friend or partner.
  • Comparing yourself to others and punishing yourself for not being as good, clever, articulate or beautiful as them.
  • Comparing your life negatively to other people’s lives on social media, overlooking the fact that these images are usually enhanced or exaggerated, and that people rarely post details of the bad things in their lives.
  • Comparing your possessions to others and feeling like a failure if they materially appear to have more than you. 
  • Experiencing immense embarrassment. If you fall over as a child, you dust yourself off and get straight back up again, but as a teenager or adult, the first thing you do is look around and think, “oh no, did someone see me?”

Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Phobia

BDD is not a genetic or biological condition and no one is born with it so it doesn’t have to be a lifelong affliction and can be completely overcome. 

To start with, it is vital to address and alter your perception of the event or events that created your phobia in the first place.  Understanding what actually happened to trigger your BDD is the key. You might like to use our timeline to help you find the origin so you can start to challenge, positively condition and alter the negative schemas (beliefs) you have created. Try these tips to get you started:

  1. Locate the origin of your belief. You can do this by writing a timeline.
  2. Challenge the origin of your belief: what you believed may not be true now, or was never true.
  3. Practice and rehearse being confident. You might like to try our Mirror Therapy Resource. 
  4. Build genuine self-confidence
  5. Break down challenging situations by setting yourself small goals.
  6. When you find yourself in challenging situations, use our Grounding Techniques to help you through. 

Living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…