People with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) think about their real or perceived physical flaws for hours each day.
They can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe that others see them accurately.
As a result, people with BDD suffer from anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, BDD affects about 2.5% of the male population and 2.2% of the female population in the United States. (1)
While BDD is often associated with teenagers and young adults, the disorder can develop at any age.
Here are seven silent signs of BDD that you may not be aware of:
1. You frequently compare your appearance to others.
Do you find yourself constantly comparing your looks to others?
If you have BDD, you may spend a lot of time looking at people you think are more attractive than you and wondering why you don’t look like them.
You may even avoid social situations altogether because you’re afraid of being judged.
2. You’re never satisfied with your appearance.
No matter how much you diet or how many times you go to the gym, you can’t seem to get the body you want.
According to the International OCD Foundation, people with BDD are usually preoccupied with one or more areas of their bodies.
Common concerns include weight, hair, skin, stomach, and muscle size. (2)
For example, you may think you’re too skinny or fat or not muscular enough.
Or you may be concerned about a blemish on your skin or your arms being too skinny.
To make matters worse, you may think you are ugly even though other people tell you that you look fine.
3. You spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.
How many times do you look in the mirror each day?
If you have BDD, you may spend several hours looking at your reflection, trying to find flaws that others can’t see.
You may even avoid mirrors altogether because you can’t stand the way you look.
As noted by the International OCD Foundation, people with BDD often perform repetitive behaviors, such as mirror checking, skin picking, and clothes changing. (3)
4. You’re extremely self-conscious.
Do you avoid social situations because you’re afraid of what others will think of you?
If you have BDD, you may be so self-conscious that you can’t even concentrate on the conversation.
All you can think about is how people are judging you and what they’re thinking.
Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with being a little self-conscious.
But if you’re so worried about your appearance that it’s impacting your quality of life, it’s time to seek help.
5. You constantly seek reassurance or approval from others
Another silent sign of body dysmorphic disorder is constantly seeking reassurance or approval from others.
You may constantly ask your friends and family if you look okay or if they think you’re attractive.
Or you may go to great lengths to get approval, such as getting cosmetic surgery.
Seeking reassurance is often a way to ease the anxiety caused by BDD.
But it’s only temporary and usually leads to more anxiety in the long run.
6. You are addicted to cosmetic surgery
If you are constantly opting for cosmetic surgery or other procedures to change your appearance, it may be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with this disorder often have surgery to correct a perceived flaw but are never satisfied with the results. (4)
this does not imply that anybody who has had a cosmetic procedure has body dysmorphic disorder.
But in many cases, people with this disorder will go to great lengths — and spend large amounts of money — in an effort to correct a physical “imperfection” that is, in reality, minor or even nonexistent.
For example, a person with BDD may have surgery to improve their nose but continue to feel that it’s not the right shape.
So they may have more surgery, and the cycle continues.
7. You’re always dieting and working out
Unfortunately, for people with body dysmorphic disorder, diet and exercise usually do little to improve their appearance.
In fact, these attempts may make things worse.
People with BDD often become fixated on a specific part of their appearance.
No matter how much they diet or exercise, they can never seem to get that part of their body to look the way they want.
This can lead to a dangerous cycle of restrictive eating, over-exercising, and body dysmorphia.
If you or someone you know is in this cycle, it’s important to seek professional help.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health condition that can be hard to spot.
If you or someone you know is constantly fixated on their appearance, seeking reassurance from others, or addicted to cosmetic surgery, it may be time to seek help.
If you think you may have BDD, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
They can help you get the treatment you need to live a healthy, happy life.