Body Dysmorphic Disorder- “Say what?”

“Born dead, darling”. My ex boyfriend scrawled that over a piece of art work he had created about me, many years ago. I turned the page upside down and scrunched my nose up. Born dead, darling? Quite offended, I had a well-earned sulk. Then he directed me gently to the first letter of each word…


Body Dysmorphic Disorder was my first ever Mentally Interesting diagnonsense. Long before any doctor saw that I was suffering from depression, eons before a doctor even got a sniff of my mania, I was told I had Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Body dysmorphia is disabling, but little known. From a psychiatric point of view, it is an Axis III disorder defined in the DSM-IV as:

Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. If a slight physical anomaly is present, the person’s concern is markedly excessive.

The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., dissatisfaction with body shape and size in Anorexia Nervosa).


The DSM-IV is as dispassionate as always, there.

I tend to think of Body Dysmorphic Disorder as a type of OCD. My symptoms flared up when I was 12- around the same time I had my first manic depressive episode. I would spend all day indoors applying make-up, fixing my hair, my skin, picking away and then I would go outside. I only went outside when it was dark, heavily made-up. In the summertime, I would have an hour or so of socialising before I went back indoors. I waited all day for the moon to rise.

As time went on, I began self harming. I cut the skin I didn’t like, which eventually became everything. I wore huge anoraks all day, every day, to try and hide my repulsive shape. I would get hysterical if anyone tried to take a photo of me. My particular focuses were my weight and my nose. I hated my nose and tried to break it once by slamming my face against a wall. I cut my stomach to try and claw out the fat.

Sounds crazy, I know.

I became a recluse for a long time, and only went out when that manic energy took hold. I loathed every single atom of my flesh.

For the sufferer of BDD, the body is a prison, a horrible, malignant prison.

And I still do, but I’m different now, and this is why.

I never did go to the doctor for treatment. I had a brief period of counselling but my heart wasn’t in it. When I moved to London, my dysmorphia was in full-flight. I hated going out, was terrified of people seeing me. I’ve always worn excessive make-up in an attempt to hide myself.

I began obsessively taking photos of myself. Scrapping photos I hated, treasuring the ones I liked. I showed them to my friends. They would say, “You look like that”. Over and over again, “That is you”. And I liked that image.

I still hate it when people take photos of me. But there are images of myself I like, and cling to. The ones I hate, I abuse, shout at, hiss at. It may seem ridiculous, but this stops me from taking something sharp to my face. In a photo, I can focus my hatred. I have broken down in tears at the sight of my body in a photograph. Yeah, I know.


I hear you cry. How many bloody issues can you have, woman? Many, is the answer. But I try not to let my issues PWN! me, as you crazy Internet kids would say. Over the years, I’ve learned to be doctor and patient with myself, getting a neccessary amount of distance to deal with things. I know it’s horrendously self-obsessed. But it stops things from completely taking over. And really, my horrendous self-obsession only exists in Blogland, where I come to lay it all on the table and have a damn good word with it.


Here is a pile of photos of BDD sufferers. Not a bad looking one among them. Still, I think, “I’m the exception. They’re beautiful and I’m ugly”. Nothing special, no big deal as I expect everyone who suffers from BDD things exactly the same thing.

If you click the above link, though, prepare for your, “Hah, people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder are just vain” preconceptions to be proved partly right. In that particular thread, there is a lot of assurance seeking. But people with BDD do geniunely believe they’re ugly. It may surprise you, what with my being level-headed and detached an’ all, but I believe I am geniunely ugly and no amount of flattery and assurances will change that. But that’s my crap to deal with. I have, at least, moved on from thinking that everyone who said I was pretty was a vicious liar. Now I nod sagely with a deflating, “Well, that’s your opinion”.

I am much better than I was. I sometimes don’t wear make-up because my boyfriend says I am pretty without it. A few years ago, I would have thought that people would have been vomiting in the streets at the sight of me without my slap-on. It’s baby steps. But you work through it.

It’s scary to be at war with yourself, and to find cause to wage it. It’s scary to look in the mirror and see nothing but rotted, ugly flesh.

The scariest thing you will ever do is look in the mirror and say, “I look good”. Once you say that, you’re no longer a victim. You’re stronger. You win. So say it.

14 Responses

  1. […] some reason, my comorbid disorders nearly all begin with B. I’ve dealt with two here already: Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (which I believe is wrong, I’m afraid).  There is a […]

  2. Hey…I know exactly how you feel!doesnt matter what anyone ays,I believe I’m hideous…and ppl from the outside think we’re crazy,but you will never understand the disorder if you’re not a victim…unfortunately very few ppl understand b.d.d and even most victims don’t…oh,and if you’re a outsider reading this,thinking,damn…these people are insane…we think we’re crazier than you do,believe’s not like we want to feel like this..we’re missing out on life and that hurts more than you can imagine…p.s. we’re not EMO…because we dnt feel sorry for ourselves,and we aren’t looking for attention,we’re looking for help..we just want to have normal lives and relationships without worrying about how we look 24/7…it is something we can’t help and it rules our lives..E from South Africa

  3. I have BBD, it’s awful, it has ruined my life and it IS an illness, just like anerexia. You see something different from everyone else and you are CONVINCED it is there…..everyone can see it and if anyone looks away from you or doesnt like talking to you-thats because they see what you see! Life is awful with BBD. My partner doesnt see what I see, nor does anyone else but I AM CONVINCED they can. nothing anyone can say helps, some days are worse then others but I cope. That’s what it is – coping. I am trying to get help now and I hope I beat it at least a tiny bit. My mind is drained from thinking about it all the time, Ive had enough of fighting with myself. I havent be acually diagnosed with BBD but I know thats what Ive got. Im ashamed of it and its not a vain thing. I simple want to be normal, be accepting of myself and I think thats what people dont understand-we generally see bad things, even if its in our own minds, its REAL.

  4. I myself have BDD and no amount of flattery will ever convince me I am anything other than repulsive. Believe me if you ever saw a photo of me you would agree (no that I would ever agree to a photo being taken.) I sincerely hope that all sufferers of this terrible affliction seek help and make some sort of breakthrough. I know I hope to. J from England.

  5. I am, I like to think, in the process of recovering from BDD. I don’t think that it will ever completely go and I’m always terrified that the next attack won’t go away but I’m working on it through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Find the right therapist who is skilled enough to help you and there really is a way of this black hole.

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  8. three things
    1. small face/big head
    2. skin picking
    3. compulsive weighing

    BDD is a fucking prison and it sucks, good for you for being so open about it, that’s the main problem, it feel so embarassing to talk about it, but whatever, thanks for blogging.

  9. HELP!!!!hey i read this, and it sounds exactly like me, i start crying in the toilets because of things that no one else seems to notice and i just hate everything, i thought it was what every girl got.. but reading this made me think, i cant look at people in the eye and i always wear a hat or wait till its dark to meet friends so they dont see me propally does anyone have any tipes to see if i have got the dissorder? email me on i would be so thankfull for some help!

  10. […] “She doesn’t look mental…” Intrusive Thoughts Mixed Episode Self Harm Personal How My Dad Died Thanks for Nothing Anxiety Principles Versus Personal Experience When A Parent Dies Complaints Body Dysmorphic Disorder […]

  11. I couldn’t have described it better.

  12. What a well written account. BDD is a stifling, self-torturing style of non-living. It took years for myself to be correctly diagnosed (originally diagnosed as schizoid). I’m in the interesting situation where the severity and length of the condition makes the fall of the Berlin Wall seem a very recent occurrence! Discovered relatively and shockingly recently that I’ve “nice eyes” so feel recovering but remedial…anyway good to see such a good description.

  13. I might be borderline dysmorphiclly disarrayed the only solution possible is exercise. Maybe at least here prevalent because of all the fast food restaurants. I also read on about the diet (raw)vegan showing realistic results. & you might be mistaking thirst for hunger sometimes, so. There are plenty of web sites and magazines to motivate by: YOGA, jogging, or the simple stuff learned in gym.

  14. Hi.
    I have lived with this for almost 20 years now. It has gotten extremely bad recently and I’m finding it very hard to cope. It’s ruining my wonderful relationship, ruined my job and is controlling my life like never before.
    I know this is an old post but if anyone comes on here and sees my post…I could really use someone with this problem to talk to. I’m in England but I’m American….and have no friends or anyone to discuss this with. NHS here just think I’m “down” and give me antidepressants which do nothing.
    Anyway…email me or reply on here if you can!
    P.S. I hope the previous posters are doing better!

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