Jane is an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, tall, thin, and stately. She believes she is breathtakingly ugly. Tormented by what she sees as her huge nose, crooked lip, big jaw, fat buttocks, and tiny breasts, she has not left her house in six years. Though she lives in the same house as her mother, she once went two years without seeing her. When relatives come over, she avoids them, staying up on the third floor of the house, even on Thanksgiving. The one time she left the house - forced to see a doctor - she covered her face with bandages. Eventually, she attempted suicide. "I can't imagine any suffering greater than this. If I had a choice, I'd rather be blind or have my arms cut off. I'd be happy to have cancer". Jane has body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD. "In The Broken Mirror", Dr. Katharine Phillips draws on years of clinical practice and detailed interviews with over 200 patients to bring readers a book on this debilitating disease, in which sufferers are obsessed by perceived flaws in their appearance.
Phillips describes severe cases, such as Jane's, but also milder cases, such as Carl, a successful lawyer who uses his work to distract him from his supposedly thinning hair, yet says that he thinks about it constantly. Many sufferers are able to function very well in society, but remain secretly obsessed by their "hideous acne" or "horrible nose", sneaking constant peeks at a pocket mirror, or spend hours at a time redoing makeup. According to Phillips' research, BDD afflicts approximately 2 per cent of the population, or nearly 5 million people. It is not an uncommon disorder, simply a hidden one, since sufferers are often embarrassed to tell even their closest friends about their concerns: one woman, after 50 years of marriage, still felt too uncomfortable to reveal her preoccupation to her husband. This work may be of value for psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and the general reader.show more