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Demystifying Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Other factors in recovery from BDD include:

  • Active participation. CBT is a collaborative treatment. “CBT requires that the client directly face and challenge their distorted thoughts and maladaptive behaviors,” Corboy said. Patients might be eager in the beginning, but dealing with anxiety-provoking situations can be difficult and dampen willingness. “While virtually every client initially says they are willing to do anything to get past this problem, many find that they are unwilling to do the work if it means they will experience a concomitant spike in their anxiety,” Corboy said.
  • Social support and healthy lifestyle. “If a client has a loving spouse, a supportive family, close friends, and meaningful work, the odds of successful treatment are far greater than if the client has a condescending or critical spouse, parents who think the problem isn’t legitimate, few or no close friends, and no meaningful work or school life,” Corboy said.
  • Medication. Before starting medication, talk to your doctor about what to expect. Wise questions to ask include: What are the side effects? Which symptoms will improve with medication? When will the medication take effect?

    Once you start taking medication, you might want to keep a log of its side effects and benefits and bring it to doctor appointments. Remember that you’re working as a team. Your doctor can’t help you if he or she isn’t aware of everything going on.

  • Ineffective treatments. It’s common for individuals with BDD to seek dermatological and dental treatments and plastic surgery in hopes of fixing their flaws. “Patients with the delusional variant often falsely believe that cosmetic procedures are their only salvation,” Greenberg said. For instance, Shepphird was seeing a patient who already had two procedures but wanted multiple surgeries to look like a figure in a painting. He couldn’t stand his current appearance and felt that the additional surgeries would improve his look.

    Instead of soothing symptoms, cosmetic treatments and procedures typically worsen them. “More often individuals feel worse (e.g., ‘disfigured’) and may subsequently blame themselves for having had a procedure they feel made them ‘look worse than before,’” Greenberg said. Individuals also can become preoccupied with another part of their body.

Co-occurring Disorders

Depression is very common among individuals with BDD and the suicide rate among BDD patients, including adolescents with BDD, is substantially higher than that among other psychiatric populations—including eating disorders, major depression and bipolar disorder—and the general U.S. population,” Greenberg said.

She notes that once BDD symptoms improve, patients tend to feel less depressed. Yet, if depression “becomes the primary concern” or suicide becomes an imminent risk, then it’s important for treatment to focus on this. Individuals who’re considering suicide — or know of someone who is — should seek professional help immediately.

Thanks to effective treatments, there is hope, and individuals get better and are able to lead productive, fulfilling lives.

Further Reading

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: When the Reflection Is Revolting

Phillips, K.A. (2009). Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder: An Essential Guide. New York: Oxford University Press.

Demystifying Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Demystifying Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.