If you’re a human being and live on this planet, you probably can come up with something that you don’t especially like about your body. Perhaps you feel you have a few extra pounds, think your nose is too large, or feel that you’re not as tall as you’d like to be. These are pretty normal concerns that most people have from time to time. In fact, if you saw your body as absolutely gorgeous, stunning, and perfect, people would probably think you’re rather narcissistic.

Something called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) takes normal, minor dissatisfactions to an entirely different level. People with BDD have painful distortions in the images they have of their bodies. They literally obsess about one or more perceived bodily flaws and see these imperfections as grotesque. Some typical concerns of those with BDD include worries about having:

  • Hair that’s too thick or too thin
  • A slightly crooked nose
  • A chin that’s too large or too small
  • A forehead that’s too large
  • A trivial scar
  • Lips that are too thin
  • Slight discolorations of the skin
  • Ears that don’t look quite right
  • Crows’ feet

Other people with BDD worry about the size of their genitals or their musculature. Their worries may shift from one imagined defect to another over time. And these worries are far from trivial. Those with BDD commonly imagine that their bodies are seriously deformed, blemished, or disfigured. Yet other people rarely see them that way; in fact, other people often do not even perceive anything as especially wrong with the actual appearance of those with BDD.

Yet when people with BDD worry about these issues, they sometimes engage in a host of rituals or compulsive behaviors in order to feel better. Unfortunately, they feel better only for a brief time. Some of these compulsions include:

  • Seeking plastic surgery (often many times)
  • Asking others for reassurance about their appearance
  • Checking their “defects” in the mirror over and over again
  • Seeing dermatologists excessively and requesting numerous procedures
  • Wearing gobs of makeup to hide their presumed defects
  • Picking at imagined skin imperfections, thus causing irritations and scars
  • Wearing clothing designed to hide their presumed deformity
  • Extensive body building
  • Steroid injections, supplements, and hormones to build body mass

If you think that BDD sounds a lot like obsessive compulsive disorder, you’re right. BDD has much in common with OCD. However, unlike OCD, those with BDD are more often depressed; they often have less insight into their problem than people with OCD, and some of the compulsions associated with BDD don’t occur as often as the compulsions of people who have OCD. For example, you don’t exactly have plastic surgery a hundred times a day in the way that someone with contamination OCD might wash their hands that often.

The bottom line is that if you or someone you know has BDD, get help. BDD is a serious problem that disrupts lives, ruins relationships, and sometimes leads to depression and even suicide.