Some people define addiction as a relationship where you can’t get enough of something even though it makes you feel bad about yourself. People with body dysmorphic disorder—who are preoccupied with their own flaws, whether imagined or slight—might be said to be addicted to mirrors. Even when they don’t like what they see, they can’t stop looking.
According to the International OCD Foundation (BDD is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder), BDD may affect as many as 1 in 200 people, and it gets worse as we age. Researchers from City University London published a piece in the Journal of Health Psychology which features interviews with ten BDD patients and specifically their feelings toward mirrors.
“I look like a monster[.] I just don't feel sort of human ... sometimes I really feel that kind of, I look diseased, like people in movies when they kind of make them up and it's like I should be groaning.”
“Everyone else, everyone is beautiful. I just feel that I am that one ugly person, and I am with all those people who like say, the Tree Man or the Elephant Man, I am in their league ... I see myself as lower than everyone else. Basically, I should be with the freak show ... because I remember always watching those films and they had that really big fat lady and I think that should be me.”
While the interviews gave more understanding about what people with BDD see when they look in the mirror, the researches say more research is needed. The good news? Cognitive-behavioral therapy and certain antidepressant medicines have been shown to be very effective at treating BDD.
- Journal of Health Psychology: ‘I Once Stared at Myself in the Mirror for Eleven Hours.’ Exploring mirror gazing in participants with body dysmorphic disorder
- Science of Us: What It's Like To Live With Body Dysmorphic Disorder