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Behav Res Ther. 2001 Dec;39(12):1381-93.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest of them all? The psychopathology of mirror gazing in body dysmorphic disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and University College School of Medicine, University of London, UK.


Patients with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) may spend many hours in front of a mirror but little is known about the psychopathology or the factors that maintain the behaviour. A self-report mirror gazing questionnaire was used to elicit beliefs and behaviours in front of a mirror. Two groups were compared, which consisted of 55 controls and 52 BDD patients.


Prior to gazing, BDD patients are driven by the hope that they will look different; the desire to know exactly how they look; a belief that they will feel worse if they resist gazing and the desire to camouflage themselves. They were more likely to focus their attention on an internal impression or feeling (rather than their external reflection in the mirror) and on specific parts of their appearance. They were also more likely to practise showing the best face to pull in public or to use "mental cosmetic surgery" to change their body image than controls. BDD patients invariably felt worse after mirror gazing and were more likely to use ambiguous surfaces such as the backs of CDs or cutlery for a reflection.


Mirror gazing in BDD consists of a series of complex safety behaviours. It does not follow a simple model of anxiety reduction that occurs in the compulsive checking of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The implications for treatment are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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