Body dysmorphic disorder: through a glass darkly
Is body dysmorphic disorder a real disease or simply vanity? Simon Clausen takes a second look
Most people care about how they look, and 93% of women and 82% of men care about their appearance and try to improve it.1 Many people wish that they were taller, their skin smoother, or stomach flatter. Some people buy flattering clothes or wear make-up. But when do normal concerns become an obsession?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) was previously known as dysmorphophobia. The term “dysmorphic” comes from the Greek for “ugliness of face.” The primary distinguishing feature of BDD is not only a dislike of a perceived defect in your physical appearance but an obsessive preoccupation with it. BDD is a potentially debilitating psychiatric illness and goes beyond normal concern with one's appearance, often considerably impairing social and occupational functioning. The disorder has been described around the world for more than a century. One of psychiatry's most famous patients, the Wolf Man, may have had BDD. Sigmund Freund, the Wolf