In today’s society, people are inundated with media images of youth, perfection and beauty. It comes as no surprise that many are self-conscious about their physical appearance. However, for patients with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a severe psychiatric disorder, it extends far beyond vanity. An estimated five to seven million people in the U.S. alone have this disorder. They often spend hours each day worrying about perceived defects in their physical appearance.
The MGH Body Dysmorphic Disorder Clinic, in collaboration with Rhode Island Hospital, is conducting the first and largest study of its kind to examine psychological treatments for BDDs. The group – under the direction of lead investigator Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Clinic and co-investigator Jennifer L. Greenberg, PsyD, staff psychologist – recently received a $2.14 million award from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a five-year trial, that will test the effectiveness of the most promising psychosocial treatment for adults with BDD: cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and supportive psychotherapy (SPT).
CBT primarily focuses on helping patients to change the way they think about their appearance – for example, helping patients to develop more helpful thoughts and beliefs. CBT also focuses on helping patients gradually enter into situations they currently have difficulty with or avoid as a result of body image concerns. Patients use skills learned in therapy to help them through these challenging situations. The treatment also aims to help patients control repetitive behaviors, such as constant mirror checking, that are related to body image concerns.
SPT primarily focuses on the impact of a patient’s symptoms on their self-esteem, functioning and relationships. The focus of SPT is to help individuals learn about and cope with their body image concerns in conjunction with other challenging factors in their life, such as relationships and stress. Patients are encouraged to express their struggles toward adaptive coping efforts in order to improve self esteem.
For more information on BDD, visit www.mghocd.org/bdd or call 1-866-MGH-4BDD.
Read more articles from the 03/16/12 Hotline issue.