Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Body Dysmorphic Disorder Works


Treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Researchers believe BDD affects about 1 to 2 percent of the general population [source: Butler Hospital]. However, they say more studies are needed to determine a more accurate estimate as they suspect the percentage may be higher.

BDD is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed because of patients' reluctance to reveal their problem due to a number of causes:

  • They worry that they will be viewed as superficial or vain for being so concerned with their appearance.
  • They are so ashamed of the flaws they believe they have that they are reluctant to discuss them with a therapist.
  • They believe their problems can be addressed only through physical treatments and may not realize the disorder's psychological roots.
  • They often have another psychiatric disorder that they're more willing to discuss during therapy; this other disorder then becomes the primary diagnosis.

However, once BDD has been discussed, it's a relatively easy disorder to diagnose, usually with a simple questionnaire. Currently, there are two main treatments patients typically take, which can be used independently or as a combination.

The most common treatment method is to prescribe an SSRI which, as described earlier, increases the amount of serotonin in the brain, improving mood and decreasing BDD symptoms. SSRIs are also helpful because they treat a number of other disorders people might have in conjunction with BDD.

Another way to treat BDD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a general method of psychotherapy first developed in the 1950s, which encompasses several approaches. CBT focuses on the concept that a person's thoughts are at the root of his or her feelings and behaviors (as opposed to outside influences). CBT also helps people learn new ways to think and react to those outside influences through an educational approach [source: The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists].

CBT can give patients a series of goals so they begin to learn more appropriate behaviors and develop mechanisms to cope in difficult situations. This method of BDD therapy is preferred for its effectiveness and relative brevity. When patients adhere to homework assignments, CBT can help them achieve relief within months.

For more information about body dysmorphic disorder, take a look at the links on the next page.