Do you think the world is terrible?

Too ugly to live

I bet you've never heard a woman say this before: "Why do I look so damn good again today?" and "My feet are the most beautiful in the world." The statements "Do you think I'm too fat too?" or "I'm slowly getting wrinkled", on the other hand, are long-running hits.

The bottom too plump, the hair too thin, the pelvis too wide. "If you are constantly worried about your appearance, a psychologist will help you more than a cosmetic surgeon," says Prof. Borwin Bandelow. He is a specialist in neurology and psychiatry, and also president of the Society for Anxiety Research. In an interview with "Welt Kompakt", the fear expert speaks about the pressure of suffering caused by ideals of beauty and pathological fears of being ugly, which, by the way, not only women suffer from.

World compact: Prof. Bandelow, has society's interest in flawless looks increased compared to before?

Prof. Borwin Bandelow: It is often claimed, but there is no scientific evidence of an increase. Even the ancient Greeks had ideals of beauty. The pursuit of this is not a new phenomenon either, but it can be dangerous in individual cases.

World compact: In what way?

Prof. Borwin Bandelow: One of my patients, a young, extremely pretty woman, took her own life many years ago because she suffered so much from her supposedly disfigured appearance. Like about one percent of the population, she has suffered from dysmorphophobia. Affected people are convinced that they are ugly, do not accept compliments and take every look critically. The disease not only affects women, half are men. Sick people often do not go to a psychiatrist because they are terribly embarrassed about their alleged flaw. Some people do not yet have a morbid fear that they are ugly, but are in a preliminary stage of the disease.

World compact: How exactly does the disease manifest itself in everyday life?

Prof. Borwin Bandelow: Dysmorphophobia sufferers have a completely exaggerated fear that some part of the body, for example the nose, is misshapen. They keep looking in the mirror and hate it like the plague. They are usually between 20 and 40 years old, often strikingly good-looking, and still run from one surgeon to the next until they find someone who can work on their almost perfect nose. They are obsessed with the thought of being ugly, hardly convincing of the opposite and therefore often particularly difficult to treat. There is a blatant disparity between their appearance and their own perception.

World compact: What are the causes of the disease?

Prof. Borwin Bandelow: The causes are still a mystery. This can be due to obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is a genetic factor, albeit not a pronounced one. Theories that parents teased their children or that model shows were to blame do not apply.