What is acne dysmorphic disorder?

Most people have heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) – an anxiety disorder which leads to an individual having a distorted opinion of how they look and excessive worry about their appearance, and which is estimated to affect roughly 0.5% of the population in some form (equating to 5 out of every 1000 people).

However, fewer people are aware of Acne Dysmorphic Disorder (ADD), a subset of BDD with consequences that are equally devastating for the sufferer. We spoke to Anjali Mahtom consultant dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson, to find out a bit more about ADD.

“[ADD] can affect people in many ways. People can believe their acne is much worse than it really is, causing much anxiety to the sufferer.”

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The harsh reality of life with Body Dysmorphic Disorder



Although pretty much everyone, sadly, goes through stages in life where they’re unhappy about certain aspects of their appearance, for someone suffering with BDD or ADD the feeling is constant and overwhelming – even, Anjali says, when the perceived ‘problem’ doesn’t actually exist.

“Individuals with body dysmorphia about their acne can range from those with little or no acne to those with mild/moderate disease, previous history of acne and acne scarring.”

Low self-esteem

According to a recent survey conducted by the British Skin Foundation, two thirds (66%) of those who took part said a fall in self-confidence was their biggest issue as a result of skin issues, and more than half (56%) said making friends was a major problem.


In addition, one in five participants said their skin disease was the driving factor for the breakdown of their most recent relationship or a previous one. Such social anxiety, Anjali says, is definitely present in ADD sufferers.

“There can be a preoccupation with looking at the skin and people who suffer can believe they are ‘ugly’ or defective. Many can also feel that this is how others perceive them, and this can cause individuals to start avoiding social situations.”


Mental health

BDD, and in turn ADD, is classed by the NHS as a mental health disorder, and is described as having the potential to “lead to depression, self-harm and even thoughts of suicide.” Indeed, a separate British Skin Foundation survey, conducted in 2012, found that as many as one in six people (17%) admitted to self-harming as a result of their skin, with…

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