Each person with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) experiences some things that are unique to him or her. But at the same time, all people with BDD have many things in common. Sarah's and Jon's stories are similar to what many people with BDD experience. Read In Our Own Words for additional stories of people with BDD.
When Sarah was 13 years old, she started to worry about her appearance. With each passing year, she worried more and more that she had bad acne and that her nose was too big, her eyes were too wide, her hair was ugly, and her thighs were too fat. She didn't want to let anyone know how much her appearance was upsetting her, but when she was in the 11th grade she finally got up the courage to tell her mother and a friend that she was worrying about how ugly she was for hours a day and was spending lots of time in the bathroom staring at herself in the mirror and trying to fix her hair and makeup. She also spent at least an hour a day picking her skin to try to make it look better. Her mother and her friend told her not to worry - that she was very pretty (which was true) -- but Sarah didn't believe them. She couldn't stop worrying, and she got more and more upset about her looks.
Whenever people looked at her, Sarah thought that they were probably thinking how bad she looked. Sarah was so preoccupied with how she looked, and was spending so much time looking in the mirror, that she couldn't concentrate on her schoolwork. She started to be late for class and even missed some classes. She felt so self-conscious that she began to avoid her friends. She got more and more depressed because she thought she looked like a "freak."
Jon was a handsome 30-year-old man. He thought he looked "really ugly" - that he was going bald, his ears were sticking out, and his body build was "puny and small". He obsessed for most of the day about the flaws he perceived. Jon also spent hours each day checking mirrors and working out at the gym to try to look better. He was extremely distressed and ashamed about the physical flaws he perceived.
Because of his distress about his appearance, Jon became depressed and drank too much alcohol to try to dull his emotional pain. He also did a poor job at work, because he was so distracted by his obsessions about his appearance and his compulsive mirror checking. He avoided other people as much as possible because he didn't want anyone to see how bad he looked. He started spending entire weekends in bed and sometimes wouldn't leave the house because he felt too ugly to be seen. Jon even had thoughts about suicide, saying that he felt life wasn't worth living if he looked so bad.