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Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment

Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition in which a personā€™s self-consciousness about their looks causes them severe distress. People with this disorder, which is also called dysmorphophobia, commonly believe they look ugly or deformed though they actually look normal. They may believe, for example, that their skin is scarred or their nose is incredibly large and crooked despite looking normal.

The feelings associated with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can potentially cause people to withdraw from social and public life due to their concerns, and even has been linked to causes of suicide. Fortunately for people suffering from BDD, there are treatments. Rehab centers for body dysmorphic disorder use medication and cognitive behavioral therapy to ease the disorderā€™s symptoms and help people feel good about themselves.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder


Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder perceive flaws that are nonexistent and become preoccupied with their perceptions.

Individuals with BDD have irrational fears and preoccupations about how they look. According to the University of California, San Diego, the most common things that people with BDD are concerned about are their skin, hair, and nose.

People who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder obsess over their body image for hours every day and may seek various different cosmetic procedures to fix the perceived flaws that they have. Those suffering from this disorder may have numerous procedures and still not be satisfied with the results. People with this disorder may be extremely self conscious, refuse to appear in pictures, they may avoid social situations and wear excessive makeup or clothing to avoid others seeing the flaws.

The main symptoms are:

  • Being preoccupied with minor or nonexistent physical flaws (acne, scarring, facial lines, marks, pale skin, thinning hair, excessive body hair, large nose, crooked nose)
  • Having a significant amount of anxiety and stress about this perceived flaw
  • Spending a lot of time focusing on the flaw (frequently picking at skin, looking in mirror often, hiding imperfection, comparing with others, excessively grooming, seeking reassurance constantly, cosmetic surgery)

Common behaviors associated with body dysmorphic disorder are:

  • Frequently looking in the mirror, catching reflection in windows, cars, etc.
  • Some people are unable to look at their reflection or photo and will remove mirrors from the home
  • Compulsive skin touching
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others
  • Social withdrawal, symptoms of depression
  • Obsessive viewing of favorite celebrities
  • Obsession with plastic surgery, or having multiple plastic surgeries with little satisfaction

Diagnosing BDD

Making a body dysmorphic disorder diagnosis can be tough. It is not easy for people with the disorder to reveal their symptoms. According to World Psychiatry, clinicians miss the disorder very often in terms of seeing a patient and making a diagnosis. This makes it very difficult to determine how many people suffer from this condition.

Nonetheless, to diagnose body dysmorphic disorder mental health professionals will ask certain questions. These questions are:

  • Are you very worried about your appearance in any way? If yes: What is your concern?
  • Does this concern preoccupy you, do you think about it a lot and wish you could worry about it less? How much time do you spend thinking about it?
  • What effect does this preoccupation have on your life? Has it interfered with your social life, job, school work or other activities? Has it caused you a lot of distress? Has it affected your family and friends?

In order to diagnose BDD, the person must be very concerned about a minimal or nonexistent appearance flaw and experience clinically significant distress because of the concern.

Treatment at Body Dysmorphic Disorder Rehab Centers

According to the Semel Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most effective treatment methods for BDD. Generally it is recommended that people with severe BDD are treated with a combination of the two, but people with mild symptoms may benefit from just medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Treatment can be difficult, especially at first. Harvard Health Publications reports that people with BDD often have a tough time admitting that they have a problem. It can be very difficult for people with the condition to understand that there is nothing wrong with their bodies and that they may have a mental health disorder.


First-line treatment for body dysmorphic disorder is with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), also calls selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications are also used as antidepressants, treatment for anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other conditions. People with BDD are often prescribed relatively high doses of these medications.

The most common SRIs used to treat BDD are:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)

Clomipramine (Anafranil) is also used to treat body dysmorphic disorder. Technically these medications are not specifically approved for the treatment of BDD, but they are considered safe and effective.

Medication treatment for body dysmorphic disorder cannot be used only when the symptoms are experienced. They take some time to work, and therefore need to be taken every day. It can take a few weeks for them to really start working (up to 12), and once they do it is recommended that patients continue taking the medications.

These medications can help people with BDD feel generally better, and spend less time obsessing about their appearances. They help people better control their repetitive behaviors, and have control over symptoms of anger and overall functioning.

Another major benefit of medications is that they help people better engage in psychotherapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common and most effective therapeutic approach to treating body dysmorphic disorder. Specifically, therapists and counselors focus on cognitive restructuring, exposure and response prevention, and other behavioral techniques to reduce social avoidance and repetitive behaviors such as checking mirror reflections.

According to the UKā€™s National Health Service specific practices in CBT for body dysmorphic disorder will work on identifying how someoneā€™s thoughts and behaviors contribute to their disorder. In figuring this out, these thoughts and behaviors can be worked through and changed to be less harmful and more productive. Ā Goals will be agreed upon to work toward desired behaviors. For example, a goal could be to restrict mirror gazing to a certain number of times per day.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy in general can also be helpful in other ways. It is not uncommon for people struggling with BDD to also be suffering from other psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression. In these cases CBT and other therapeutic approaches can help people cope with the symptoms of these disorders.

If you or someone you know suffers from body dysmorphic disorder it is important to know that you are not alone. There are thousands of individuals who suffer from this mental disorder and who need the help of rehab centers, counselors and therapists to stop the negative thoughts associated with this condition. For more information about treatment for body dysmorphic disorder, contact a rehab center near you.

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