BDD stands for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. It is a mental health condition where a person spends a long time worrying about their appearance.
By Ida Anderson
People with BDD usually think that they look very different to what they really do because all their focus is on perceived flaws. People usually focus on a particular feature of their body they do not like and often this is the face.
BDD is very similar to OCD. Like OCD, it is an anxiety disorder, but with obsessive thoughts about parts of the body. Plus, unhelpful behaviours or compulsions, such as continual mirror checking, which end up reinforcing the thoughts and anxiety. Even if other people reassure them that there is nothing wrong with how they look, they cannot believe this. They are more likely to think people are just being nice to save their feelings.
BDD is a very debilitating condition. It can make someone very self-conscious to the extent that they feel they look too ugly or abnormal to go out in public. They are convinced everyone is looking at them and thinking the same as they are. This can severely reduce a person’s social and work life, keeping them trapped at home.
For BDD to be treated the person has first to accept that what they are seeing is not the truth and that their perception has become out of kilter with reality. This is often a very difficult step because the person just cannot believe anything different to how they see things. A person can then be helped overcome their BDD usually with CBT and exposure therapy in a similar way to OCD. This has to be carefully graded by a therapist at a pace suitable for the individual. And their distress needs to gradually be reduced to make sure their anxiety doesn't get worse.