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When looks become an obsession : Body dysmorphic disorder

  • By Suman Singh

People with BDD have negative feelings all the time about their looks. They are worried about how bad they look because their nose is crooked or they have fat arms, even if they are thin. They like to keep alone as they feel that others will notice the flaws in their looks. They may not even go to school or to any social gathering and they even keep away from their family and friends. They obsess so much about their looks that they feel emotionally disturbed. This begins to soon interfere with their daily lives and they just can’t cope. BDD is present in 1% to 2% of the population in mild or severe form.


Those who have BDD find it very difficult not to think about their looks. Since they think that they don’t look good or that their looks are imperfect, it leads to poor self-esteem. They begin to dislike that part of their body where they see the defect. It could be that there really is nothing wrong or there is a slight problem. However, teenagers particularly feel that the defect is very serious and their friends will notice it and might make fun of it. They even begin to dislike their bodies if they feel that there is a defect in their body. These people don’t like to go out of the house because they think people will notice their bad looks. If their condition becomes worse, then they sometimes think of committing suicide. Some of the things that people with BDD do are:

  1. All the time they either keep looking in the mirror or they don’t like looking at the mirror at all.
  2. They try to camouflage their flaws by covering their face with makeup, bodies with clothes, hair with caps, and eyes with goggles.
  3. They compare their looks with those of others.
  4. They try to improve their looks with makeup and even contemplate doing cosmetic surgery.
  5. They like to change their clothes all the time and want to be seen only when they are dressed well.
  6. They keep exercising if they feel that their physique is not good enough.


There is some research which points to the fact that BDD happens because of some social causes like bullying or abuse at a young age. Since there is so much emphasis on good looks in society, those who have even a slight flaw feel they are totally imperfect. There is also a theory that BDD is genetic, as it has been found that those who have BDD also have a close relative who has suffered from BDD.

BDD can be successfully treated with psychotherapy and medicine.


BDD can be treated with psychiatric or psychological treatment and there is significant improvement in the symptoms. Also, there are certain medicines that can help people with BDD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also of help. However, the sufferer will have to be examined by a doctor to see the extent of the symptoms. Some people don’t like to take medicines because they want to get better on their own, but the more severe BDD requires medicine as well as psychological treatment.