Does ugliness cause depression? (+7 key symptoms)

On this page, we shall answer the question “does ugliness cause depression?” We shall define what BDD is and the symptoms of BDD. We shall also discuss the causes of BDD and look at the people at risk of developing BDD. 

Finally, we shall look at the relationship between BDD and depression and the treatment options available for BDD.

Does ugliness cause depression?

Yes, ugliness can cause depression. It is normal to feel insecure about a part of our body that we don’t feel looks the best, but sometimes, people get obsessed and try to hide or correct their “flaws”. This condition is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Ugliness is the degree to which a person’s physical features are considered aesthetically unappealing. Sometimes, we feel insecure about a part of our body, the shape of body parts or our skin colour. This disorder affects people of all ages and starts as early as the adolescent stage.

Research shows that one in fifty people have BDD. People with BDD feel there’s a big disparity between how they perceive themselves and what their friends or family tell them. This means that it does not matter how many times they hear the words “you are beautiful the way you are” “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” “it is the inner beauty that matters”. These words make no difference in how they feel about themselves.

While you know objectively your family and friends are right, this does not elevate the feeling of stress and anxiety your body image causes you. BDD is a psychological disorder like any other and can be treated through treatment and other self-help tips.

Common features people with BDD focus on:

  • Facial features like the nose or lips
  • Size and shape of genitalia and breasts
  • Body hairs and facial hairs
  • Skin, i.e. moles, freckles, acne or scars
  • Muscle size or tone

Signs and symptoms of BDD/perceived ugliness

Hiding so that others cannot see the offending body part

This is isolating yourself by avoiding work, social gatherings, school and public places so that others may not see you or leaving the hours during odd hours when people are unlikely to see you.

Repeatedly spending a lot of time on the mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether

You check yourself on the mirror compulsively, especially when you are alone or you avoid mirrors because seeing your reflection causes distress.

Avoiding your picture from being taken

You avoid gatherings where photos will be taken or police pictures to make sure people don’t post your flaws for the world to see

Does ugliness cause depression? (+7 key symptoms)

Undergoing plastic surgery to correct the perceived imperfection

Undergoing procedures, thinking they will fix your problems, but even after it is done, you don’t get satisfied with your results

Spending a lot of time camouflaging or hiding the perceived ugly body part

You use makeup, accessories, or clothing to cover up your flaws. You might also position your body in a way that covers your flaws, wear hats or put on baggy clothes ‌to hide your flaws. 

Picking your skin compulsively, leading to injury

This is also a sign of OCD, but if it is done intending to improve looks or do away with a flaw, then it is a symptom of BDD

Comparing yourself negatively to others

You compare yourself to pictures of your younger self or with celebrities and criticize yourself using those as comparisons.

Overspending on personal grooming

You spend most of your income on products that will enhance your look and after a while; you get delusions about these products and therefore look for other better treatment options.

What is muscle dysmorphia?

It is a belief that your muscles are not big enough. This condition is mostly associated with men and can be very difficult to identify. Extreme workout sessions can be applauded and seen as a sign of dedication and commitment.

If your extreme workout is accompanied by the following symptoms, there is a likelihood you have muscle dysmorphia

  • Checking mirrors excessively or avoiding them
  • Getting fixated on counting calories
  • Wearing layers of clothes to appear bigger
  • Excessive exercise and lifting weights for long hours every day
  • Avoiding restaurants over a perceived fear of not being able to control what you eat and the amounts
  • Arranging meals perfectly to balance proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins
  • Having a rigid and strict meal routine
  • Using steroids or body enhancing pills

Risk factors of BDD

Low self-esteem

Attaching your value to how you look makes you become obsessed with how you look, as it is what makes you feel valuable. Having low self-esteem can make you become fixated on certain aspects of your body.

Fear of rejection or being alone

If you feel your body has to be a certain way so that you can fit into a certain group of friends or have a partner, there is a likelihood of developing BDD as you would do anything to maintain those standards. The breakdown of the friendship or relationship might worsen the symptoms and make you more concerned about your appearance.

Striving for perfectionism

Trying to become physically perfect can make one develop BDD. wanting to look like the celebrity you look like contributes to the development of BDD. if you have a job that focuses on your appearance is also a risk factor i.e gymnastics, modelling or bodybuilding.


If there is a close family member with BDD, then there’s a likelihood of you developing it. However, there is no apparent reason to determine whether the symptoms are caused by genetics or are gained behaviours.

Depression, anxiety and OCD

People with other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or OCD are at a high risk of developing BDD. It is, however, not clear whether these illnesses cause BDD or BDD causes the onset of these illnesses.

Abuse and bullying

Abuse and bullying from a young age regarding your physical appearance can cause the development of BDD. it causes the development of a negative body image and makes you obsessed with your looks. Bullying in the teenage hood also affects how you view yourself as your body is changing.

Relationship between Body Dysmorphic Disorder/ perceived ugliness and depression

There is a correlation between depression and BDD. There is an unlikelihood of BDD becoming a symptom of depression, but both disorders can happen simultaneously. This means that BDD can be a risk factor in the development of depression or depression can make one have a fixation on how they perceive themselves.

Treatment options for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This is the most recommended type of therapy when treating BDD. It helps the individual in recognizing the negative thought patterns, changing them into positive thinking patterns and also finding positive coping mechanisms for dealing with BDD. It will help you step outside your body and view your body in an aim and forgiving manner.


There is no specific medication that has been made to treat BDD. However, some antidepressants like Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) help in easing anxious and obsessive behaviours. They also help to manage depression, a condition that co-occurs with BDD.

Self-help tips for managing BDD

Join a support group

Getting together with people going through the same thing can help you feel understood, not judged, and make you open to new suggestions and ideas.

Stay focused on your goals

Always keep your recovery goals in mind and keep on analyzing them to determine if you are still achieving them

Don’t become isolated

Try as much as possible to reconnect with family and friends you feel bring positivity to your life and who are healthy support systems

Write in a journal

This will help you track your moods and you can identify your self-defeating thought patterns, emotions and behaviours and what causes them. This will help you identify ways to curb these feelings before they become catastrophic.

Take care of yourself

Make sure to always eat a well-balanced diet, have enough sleep and do exercise.

Learn relaxation techniques

Practice breathing techniques, yoga or meditation that will help you relax, sleep better and improve your mood.

Don’t make important decisions when you are feeling distressed

Making rash decisions when you are distressed might make you regret the decision later, i.e, shaving your hair after feeling discouraged when someone mentions that your hair looks terrible.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies for BDD

  • Pay attention to warning signs
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs
  • Educate yourself about BDD
  • Stick to your treatment plan
  • Practice learned strategies
  • Get active

How do you handle the “I am so ugly days?”

You can come to terms with feeling ugly by:

  • Confront the beauty standards 
  • Accept compliments and believe them
  • Reach out for support
  • Have self-compassion
  • Practice body positivity


We have defined Body Dysmorphic Disorder and looked at the symptoms of BDD. We have also looked at the risk factors for developing BDD and the relationship between BDD and depression. Finally, we have looked at the treatment options for depression and self-help tips that will help you manage BDD.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: ugliness and depression

Can your looks cause depression?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder doesn’t get better on its own. If left untreated, it can lead to the development of other psychological illnesses like depression, OCD, or anxiety.

Does depression make you less sensitive?

Sometimes the disorder might present as irritability, aggressiveness or can also make one passive, helpless and hopeless and easy to lash out at. It is possible to become more irritable and aggressive when having depression.

Why am I obsessed with my looks?

BDD makes one perceive themselves as ugly or see a part of their body as aesthetically unpleasant, even when other people don’t share the same sentiments. Research shows that these people have a problem with underlying connections in their brains.


HelpGuide, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic, Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved from

Wiseman E. (March 6, 2016). The ugly truth about body dysmorphia. Retrieved from

Mind, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Retrieved from

Maddo, (September 27, 2017). Being/feeling ugly seems to be the source of all my problems. Retrieved from