The GuardianThe Guardian

The ugly truth about body dysmorphia

By Eva Wiseman

06 Mar 2016 · 8 min read

A man took a razor blade and very carefully cut open his nose lengthways. His aim was to remove the cartilage and replace it with that of a chicken. Finally, he thought, he’d feel so much better. In America a man took a hammer to his face. Somebody cut the ends of their fingers off. Across the world people are standing in bathrooms with knives, quietly hating themselves. Self-surgery is one of the hallmarks of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), where a person has a distorted view of how they look. A nose, a hand. A place to focus on, and to hate.

Most of us care about our appearance. Walking to work, reflective surfaces distract us. We make small adjustments, conceal, straighten. We like to be seen from particular angles, and profess to hate our arms. But it is the point at which these concerns become an obsession – when the worry interferes with a person’s life, when they can’t leave the house because they’re stuck looking in the mirror, when relationships fail and work falters, that’s when it becomes a disorder. And that’s when the Maudsley hospital gets involved.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content