Cathartic Interview: Sergio Petro, The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.


Today at Cathartic, we are pleased to be talking to Sergio Petro, a Director of The Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Foundation.


Sergio has seen first-hand the devastating effects of BDD on a family member, as the disorder claimed the life of his brother, David.  Sergio is now using his work with the Foundation to honour the memory of his brother.  Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a condition that affects many within our society yet awareness of the condition is limited and not as widespread as it could be.  Our intention today is to highlight Sergio’s story, the work of The BDD Foundation and help anyone who may be suffering with BDD to realise they are not alone and support is available to them.


Please tell us about The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, how was it started?

The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation (BDDF) was officially established and registered with the Charity Commission 2013, after initially being started in 2006. We’re still a very small but extremely passionate charity dedicated to the relief of suffering from BDD.  There are eight of us. We have a CEO, a Chair, a treasurer, a secretary and a board of four trustees, plus a number of dedicated hard-working volunteers.


What main goals is The BDD Foundation aiming to achieve?

We aim to advance education and understanding of the disorder, raise public awareness, and support research into BDD and its treatments.


Awareness of BDD as a condition is limited, did this influence the conception of The BDD Foundation?

Ten years ago BDD sufferers repeatedly experienced a lack of support, understanding and a lack of awareness about BDD, and felt desperately alone with nowhere to turn to. From a combination of desperation and necessity this drove a passion for spreading awareness and creating a community for sufferers, out of which the BDD Foundation was formed.


What specific issues do you provide support for?

We provide support for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. BDD is characterised by a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance. Sufferers are excessively self-conscious and tend to check their appearance repeatedly. Muscle Dysmorphia is a form of BDD that is characterised by a preoccupation with not being sufficiently muscular or lean (when this is not the case).


The BDD Foundation needs help from people suffering with the condition for an awareness project, please tell us more.

The BDDF are currently working on compiling a book about people's experiences of living with BDD. The desire is to provide people who are struggling with a sense of hope and some practical advice on how to manage and even move beyond the distressing symptoms and behaviours related to their BDD. We need your help in order to make this vision a reality.

Please consider contributing your story, which can be anything from a few hundred to a few thousand words. In this way, we can turn our difficult experiences into positive action for others. If you are interested, please contact Nicole on or Sergio at and we will provide you with further details. Contributions can be anonymous if you wish and you will retain full editorial rights and final approval. Thank you for helping us to support people with BDD and their loved ones in this way.


What challenges does The BDD Foundation face and how have you overcome them?

Despite affecting 1 in 50 (2% of the population), BDD is still relatively little known. Sadly a degree of ignorance and misunderstanding about the disorder remains, BDD often being mischaracterised as either solely affecting women as well as being an issue that centres on vanity. Men and women are affected equally and sufferers typically have very low self-esteem, often only wishing that they could look “normal”. As such we see publicity and media exposure as being key to our strategy of raising awareness and letting sufferers know that they are not alone. There have been a number of high quality articles in The Guardian, the BBC, The Huffington Post, over the past 12 months, as well as members of the Foundation appearing on television and giving interviews.


Are there any success stories that you would like to share, something that has made you proud to be doing the work that you do?

In May last year we held the first international conference on BDD. It was aimed exclusively at people with BDD and their families, and was completely sold out, running at full capacity on the day. The conference combined speeches by professionals in the field with inspirational speeches and a number of workshops and exhibits. Our keynote speaker was Katharine Phillips, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at Brown University in the USA, and the author of “The Broken Mirror; understanding and treating BDD”. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One health professional who attended said it was “one of the best conferences I have ever been to”.


If someone wishes to support The BDD Foundation, how can they help?

We desperately need funds so fundraising is always hugely appreciated (and also usually lots of fun). Examples include a Phil Collins tribute night organised last year by the friends and family of a sufferer who sadly took his own life, there has been a bake sale, a planned sky dive, the ideas are endless! Joining the BDD Foundation as a member is free and will help to spread the word about ourselves.

We’re planning a conference in 2016 and as the date approaches volunteering opportunities will become available. Please visit the “Helping Us” section of our website for more info:


How can people contact The BDD Foundation for support?

The BDD Foundation cares greatly about the distress BDD causes but we are currently not a helpline or crisis service. Our website offers extensive information about BDD and the journey to recovery. We also run both online and physical support groups every month. These provide a safe space for sufferers and family members affected by BDD to share their experiences and are completely free to attend.

Further details are available on our website:

The website also has numerous other ways for people to get help. No-one should feel that they have to fight BDD alone.


Body Dysmorphic Disorder can have a devastating affect upon the lives of sufferers and those close to them.  We hope that by speaking to Sergio today, we have helped to highlight the good work of The BDD Foundation and helped to raise awareness of the vital work that they are doing on a daily basis.

If you would like to support The BDD Foundation or are interested in reading more about their valuable work then please visit their website: