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Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder occurs in approximately 1-2% of the general adult population and in up to 12% of the population of people who seek mental health treatment. It is a disorder of distortion in perception about appearance. It causes the sufferer to anxiously focus upon monitoring and hiding the aspect of their appearance that they view as being terrible and ugly. It is not a disorder of vanity, in which a person takes great pleasure in focusing upon their appearance. It is a disorder of agonizing shame and despair about appearance. Those who have BDD focus upon a particular feature or minor defect in their appearance and believe this aspect is severely disfiguring and distracting to others. They feel convinced that their imagined ugliness is obvious to others despite having gotten reassurance to the contrary from family or friends. Shame and disgust about their misperceived ugliness can cause them to avoid social interactions and to engage in elaborate attempts and great expense to disguise or conceal the aspect of their appearance that they believe to be so bothersome. Body dysmorphic disorder can focus upon any aspect of appearance, including the shape of various body parts, hair or complexion. Frequently those who suffer seek unnecessary plastic surgery or cosmetic treatments, even when physicians recommend against it. No amount of reassurance from others can dispel the sufferer’s belief that they are terribly disfigured. Patients with BDD may also take great risks in order to their appearance by seeking out medications, treatments or surgeries that are not under the supervision of licensed or well qualified professionals.
Treatment for body dysmorphic disorder consists of cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. Cognitive therapy helps patients learn to recognize that their disorder is one of misperception and misplaced focus upon particular aspects of their appearance. They are taught how to gradually decrease efforts to examine and camouflage or hide their appearance. Exposure therapy helps patients gradually resume normal activities that they avoided due to fear of having their misperceived defect become noticeable. Patients who desire plastic surgery are strongly discouraged from getting permanent alterations to their appearance. Research has shown that patients with BDD are inevitably disappointed with the results because their disorder is not due to a distortion in actual appearance but rather it is due to a distortion in perception about their appearance.
AATC staff has experience in treating body dysmorphic disorder. We offer a compassionate step by step program to help those who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder learn to live their lives free of painful preoccupation with their appearance. We offer home visits to those patients who may initially feel unable to come to our offices due to their BDD concerns.