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The rise of body dysmorphic disorder

Often dismissed as a ‘first world problem' or a ‘bad case of vanity’, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) remains a very misunderstood condition. It is, in fact, an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look. The outcome is that they will spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance and may even avoid social situations as a result.

This virtually unknown condition affects 1 in 50 people. However, because people know so little about it, sufferers often self-medicate. In severe cases, this can mean undergoing frequent and repeated plastic surgery procedures. They will make extensive attempts to hide perceived defects and will obsess over their appearance because they believe that they are ugly or defective and that others perceive them in this way as well.

An example of the extremes someone with BDD can go to, is when a former glamour model famously spent over £1 million on more than 300 procedures when she developed an addiction to surgery. This was driven by her undiagnosed battle with BDD. Unsurprisingly however, less than 10% of people with the condition who do have procedures done will be happy with the outcome.

Vanity is not the issue

Typically, sufferers will delay seeking help out of fear that they will be dismissed as being vain. Worryingly, studies have suggested that people with the condition have a much higher suicide rate than the general population, which highlights the importance of getting a diagnosis.

Symptoms often start in adolescence but media images have long been cited as a potential factor in leading people to develop poor body image. In recent years, we have also seen the rise of the 'selfie' and a recent survey found that 16-25 year-olds spend, on average, 16 minutes taking the perfect photo.

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