Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder in which a person can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. Regardless of how small or undetectable these “flaws” are, the person may feel so embarrassed and ashamed that they may avoid social situations. Although we’ve all struggled with self-consciousness from time to time, people with BDD have an especially hard time moving past these perceived flaws - a feeling that celebrities are all too familiar with. Below is a list of celebrities with body dysmorphia who have shared their struggles and have raised awareness about the issue.
Arguably one of the world’s most popular artists of the 21st century, Billie Eilish has made a name for herself in the music industry with her moody music and out-of-the-box style. In addition to her vocals, her wardrobe has been a contributing factor to her identity in the public eye, from her bright green and black hair to her giant t-shirts and pants.
However, the size of her clothes has also indicated a deep-rooted issue with body image. In addition to depression and Tourette Syndrome (TS), Billie Eilish also has body dysmorphia and has shared several instances in which she struggled with her body image.
In one interview, Eilish said, “I’ve never felt comfortable in really tiny clothes. I was always worried about my appearance. That was the peak of my body dysmorphia. I couldn’t look in the mirror at all.”1
Considering the excessive appraisal of physical appearance from others and a tendency to view one’s body negatively, it’s no wonder why there are so many famous BDD sufferers.
Known for his role as Dylan on the ABC comedy “Modern Family,” actor Reid Edwig is another celebrity with body dysmorphic disorder who has been open about his condition and what contributed to his struggles. One thing he’s particularly regretful of is plastic surgery.
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Ewing wrote, "Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness in which a person obsesses over the way he or she looks. In my case, my looks were the only thing that mattered to me."2
The actor made his first appointment with plastic surgery in 2008, which he genuinely believed would make him look like Brad Pitt. The actor wrote, “[The plastic surgeon] quickly determined that large cheek implants would address the issues I had with my face, and a few weeks later, I was on the operating table. He spoke with me before I went under, but he wasn't the same empathetic person I met with during the consultation."2
Ewing was 19 at the time of his first surgery, after which he said he “woke up screaming my head off from pain".2 After removing his bandages, the actor was horrified by the results, which were nothing like what the surgeon promised.
Ewing said the bottom of the cheeks were as hollow as a corpse’s, an effect he didn’t want. After that, he isolated himself from loved ones.
In an attempt to fix the results of the initial procedure, the young actor went under the knife multiple times in the following years. He said that by the time 2012 came around, “all the isolation, secrecy, depression, and self-hate became too much to bear. I vowed I would never get cosmetic surgery again even though I was still deeply insecure about my looks."2
Ewing also shared that he was not asked to undergo a mental health screening prior to surgery. Despite his own history of eating disorders and family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, neither came up in conversations with doctors, and no other treatments were suggested before encouraging plastic surgery.2
Famous for his role as the mysterious and gentlemanly Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” series, actor Robert Pattinson has also shared his experiences with body dysmorphia. In an interview with Australia’s Sunday Style magazine, Pattinson shared, “I get a ton of anxiety, right up until the second I get out of the car to the event when suddenly it completely dissipates. But up until that moment, I’m a nutcase. Body dysmorphia, overall tremendous anxiety.”3
In the interview, the actor claimed that since the end of the “Twilight” movies, he’s just now getting used to his tremendous fame. Considering the attention that was placed on his physique while filming this series and among “Team Edward” fans, it’s not difficult to imagine how stressful that can be on one person.
In one interview with Glamour magazine, “Garbage” lead singer Shirley Manson calls her experience as a Calvin Klein model the beginning of her life. The rock star has spoken about her experience with body dysmorphic disorder, a condition she struggled with since she was a child.
Her appearance in the 1999 poster campaign for Calvin Klein was the beginning of a harmful body-distorting cycle. Of this experience, Manson said, “I always turned up five hours late because I’d be fussing about my hair and makeup. I would change into a million different outfits and make them change the lighting a million times. I would spend two hours crying in the toilet – and whatever the result, I always thought I looked disgusting. I would look in the mirror every morning and be upset. I would get dressed and look in the mirror again and be upset.”
In the Klein ads, Manson is pictured with her hair brushed back and a make-up-free face. Of the photo, she said, "I'd never been seen like that in public. I thought if I went out bare-faced, everyone would think I was repulsively ugly."4
Following her recovery from BDD - which she attributed to being bullied in school about her red hair - Manson realized that once everyone in the world saw her without makeup, there would be nothing left for her to hide or worry about. She even shared that she liked the photograph and thought it was sweet and went as far as to write Klein thanking him for how he helped her overcome body dysmorphia.
Michael Jackson’s death impacted millions of people all over the world. Dubbed the “King of Pop,” Michael is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, and his music still retains its popularity.
Unfortunately, anyone who knew of Michael’s passing was aware that he struggled with mental health. He often spoke of the abuse he endured at the hands of his father when he started a band with his brothers in 1964. Since then, he endured the challenges that often come with fame, including body image issues.
Throughout the last 20 years of Michael’s life, his appearance radically changed. He seemed to have undergone multiple plastic surgeries to alter his nose, chin, facial structure, and skin tone.
Considering the number of cosmetic procedures he had, how often he isolated himself from the public eye, and the covered-up attire he often wore, it’s possible that Michael struggled with body dysmorphic disorder, among other things. Some reports also claim that he struggled with clinical hypochondria (health anxiety) and an eating disorder.
Andy Warhol’s struggles with body dysmorphia became apparent in an exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pennsylvania. The collection of artwork in the exhibition reveals parallels between Warhol’s personal history with body dysmorphia – such as early signs of balding and severe scars from his shooting in 1968 – and the treatment of the body as his subject.
The use of commercial products to “fix” physical flaws and correct vexing imperfections was the central theme of his paintings from 1961. His work from early 1961 canvases to late physiological diagram paintings show the interior body on display with flaws either erased or highlighted.
Considering his work, it’s clear that, like other celebrities with BDD, Warhol struggled with body image and mental health.
Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is known for her struggles with depression, a condition that contributed to her suicide in 1963. However, a less investigated condition that she may have had was body dysmorphia.
In her autobiography, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath: 1950-1962, Plath wrote of her appearance, “My face I know not. One day ugly as a frog the mirror blurts it back: thick-pored skin, coarse as sieve, exuding soft spots of pus, points of dirt, hard kernels of impurity – a coarse grating. No milk-drawn silk. Hair blued with oil-slick, nose crusted with hair and green or brown crusts. Eye-whites yellowed, corners crusted, ears a whorl of soft wax” (p. 306).5
The “Riverdale” star has been very open about her experience with body dysmorphia and its ability to affect anyone regardless of their dress size. She even shared her story at Glamour’s 2018 Women of the year summit, where she spoke about how often she’d examine her body in the mirror, seeing something different every time.
She often questioned why her body would seem to change so much in the course of a day and why she felt the need to apologize to others about her appearance. She added that these thoughts stem from insecurities and learned behaviors, and the best way to lay them to rest is to show "what's real with no filter, and certainly with no shame.”6
Considering the many cases of body dysmorphic disorder in celebrities, it’s clear that this condition can affect anyone. Oftentimes, untreated cases of body dysmorphia give way to eating disorders, which are serious behavioral disorders characterized by disturbed and persistent eating behaviors.
If you or someone you know needs eating disorder treatment or body dysmorphia treatment, our center for eating disorders in Philadelphia can help. At Banyan Treatment Centers, our eating disorder programs cover a multitude of conditions, ranging from anorexia nervosa to other specific feeding and eating disorders (OSFED).
With the right eating disorder support, you can overcome your eating disorder and achieve a fulfilling lifestyle. To learn more about our programs, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763.