The signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

People who suffer from BDD may think that there is something wrong with any part of their body, including their breasts or genitals. However, most sufferers are concerned with one or more aspects of their face. The most common concerns are with the nose, hair, skin, eyes, chin, lips, or overall body build. 

Common behaviours in people with BDD include trying to cover up certain parts of themselves either with clothes, hats and make-up. Sufferers may also complain of a lack of symmetry, feel that something is too big or too small, or that a part of their body is out of proportion to the rest of their body. Being obsessed with how other people look, particularly in magazines and other media, is another behaviour to look out for as comparing themselves to other people, including celebrities, is very common.

Look out for excessive exercise regimes which are also very common for those suffering with BDD as a way of controlling how a certain part of their body looks. Eating disorders are also a common way of dealing with BDD, for example if the sufferer thinks that their stomach, arms or legs are too large they may try to reduce this by drastically reducing the amount that they eat. The health implications that come with eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, can be substantial so it is incredibly important to seek help early on if you see or experience symptoms of eating disorders.

BDD is a distressing condition which can impact greatly on the sufferer’s social, work and home life due to a lack of confidence and constant distraction about a certain part of their appearance.

Symptoms of BDD

Common signs of body dysmorphic disorder can include:

  • Asking for constant reassurance about imae for example constantly asking “Are you sure I look ok?”, “Does my nose look strange?” or “Can you see my scar?”
  • Repeatedly checking your appearance in front of mirrors and windows as you are worried about an imperfection
  • Picking at your skin to make it smooth - this is common in eczema sufferers but causes great damage to the skin
  • Cutting or styling your hair until you think that it is perfect which may take a lot of time and effort
  • Using heavy make-up to cover up an imperfection that you are particularly worried about
  • Considering cosmetic surgery or other medical treatment to alter appearance
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others and judging your appearance next to them
  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs to deal with self-confidence issues which have been brought on by BDD

What are the emotional symptoms of BDD?

As well as physical symptoms, there are often emotional symptoms associated with BDD:

  • Self-harm
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Isolation from social situations
  • Lack or increase of sleep
  • Increase or decrease in eating 

7 tips to deal with the initial stages of BDD: 

  1. Understand and admit that you have a problem – this is a crucial first step to beating the condition
  2. Accept that your behaviours are damaging your self-confidence which will have a knock-on effect on your relationships
  3. Accept help from family, friends and professionals who only want the best for you
  4. Surround yourself with positive influences and remove any negativity as well as any temptations to relapse. Slowly stop asking for reassurance, cut down time spent in front of mirrors and time spent looking at celebrities.
  5. Make a step-by-step plan to conquering your condition with a health professional
  6. Be honest with yourself and with family and friends about your condition and avoid cosmetic surgery. A perfect appearance will not make you happy.
  7. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect – everybody is different in a variety of ways. Focus on what you like about yourself.

For further information on BDD and the treatment options available, or to find a clinic or hospital near to you, please call: 0845 277 4679.