Five Years Ago This Woman Felt Too Ugly to Go outside. Now She's Competing to Be Miss England

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD PRICE

WHEN Racheal Baughan faces the Miss England judges later this year she will lay the ghost of a tormented childhood.

Win or lose, she will be proving to herself and the world that she has conquered a disorder that once made her hide away in shame.

Despite being blessed with tumbling chestnut hair and sapphire blue eyes, Racheal spent many of her teenage years convinced to the point of suicidal depression that she was ugly.

Her crushing insecurity left her desperate for plastic surgery and led her into solvent abuse. She dropped out of school because of bullying and lived a vampiric existence in her room, only venturing out after dark.

If she did plan a night out - clubs were her only social haven because she felt the subdued lighting hid her ugliness - she would spend the entire day preparing herself.

The turnaround began with a diagnosis. Her condition was identified as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or imagined ugliness syndrome, which experts believe is becoming increasingly common among both sexes.

'To start with no one had any idea what was wrong with me,' said Racheal, 23, of Crawley, West Sussex.

'I had loving parents and a privileged background. I had my own ponies which kept me active, and I was actually a bit of a tomboy.

'Suddenly, I became obsessed with my appearance and makeup. When I went out I was always looking in mirrors. I was paranoid.

'And I was bullied because people thought I was being vain.

'I was miserable for years until a doctor from the United States heard about my case and diagnosed BDD. Once I knew what was wrong with me I had the chance to get better, and I have changed my life completely since then.'

Racheal plunged into the job market and forced herself to confront her condition. She has now been in a steady relationship for more than five years and considers herself 'completely cured'. …