Many a times, people focus so much on their looks and appearances that they tend to exaggerate even their minor flaws. When it gets difficult to control such thoughts, the result can be severe emotional distress that may interfere with their daily activities. These are clear symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a common mental health condition in which patients are always anxious about their appearance and fail to focus on anything other than their “imperfections”.
However, the good news is that BDD, an anxiety disorder, can be successfully treated with long-term medication, according to a recent study by the Rhode Island Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Though certain combination therapies, such as serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and psychotherapy, help alleviate the symptoms, the study sheds light on the efficacy of medications to prevent relapse even after the patient has discontinued taking them.
Published in the journal American Journal of Psychiatry, the study found that BDD patients who continue their treatment for six months, after the initial positive response to the medication, often experience positive results in terms of dealing with the severity and the relapse of the disease.
Lead researcher Sabine Wilhelm, Ph.D., director of OCD and related disorders program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his team enrolled 74 participants who received medications, including escitalopram, during the 14-week period of the acute phase of the disease.
In the next stage, known as the relapse prevention efficacy phase, nearly 58 participants were offered a choice between double-blind continuation treatment with escitalopram and placebo treatment. Those who were given six months of additional treatment after the initial response to the medication did well as the medication delayed their relapse.
Wilhelm said, “Among patients who responded to acute-phase escitalopram, continued pharmacological treatment significantly delayed time to relapse compared to patients in the placebo group. More than twice as many placebo-treated patients relapsed than escitalopram-treated patients.”
Further studies are needed to understand whether cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for BDD will help decrease the risk of relapse when an effective medication is stopped, the researchers said.
Diagnosis of BDD
It is not easy to diagnose BDD as the patient is too embarrassed or ashamed to reveal the symptoms to the caregiver. To initiate a proper treatment, it is imperative to identify some of the symptoms, such as:
- Repetitive behavior : People with BDD often engage in ritualistic activities such as constantly looking at a mirror, feeling overly self-conscious, excessive grooming or changing clothes frequently. In extreme cases, a patient may be found picking at his skin in order to address the perceived deformities.
- Preoccupation with physical appearance : Individuals diagnosed with this disorder are often seen preoccupied with flaws or defects in their physical appearance, which, though minor or nonexistent, can create a havoc in their life.
- Comparison with others : A BDD patient often compares his appearance with others and believes that others are also taking special notice of his appearance.
- Seeking corrective measures : People with BDD may seek frequent consultations with cosmetic surgeons to address the perceived defect in appearance; but they may not always achieve the desired result.
- Depression and suicidal tendency : Patients often suffer from depression and suicidal tendency due to their preoccupations with looks and inability to change the way they look.
Making help available
For individuals with anxiety problems resulting from BDD, a combination of therapy and medication is the most effective course of treatment. It is important to understand well this anxiety disorder related to body image as it will help caregivers decide the line of treatment to be adopted.
If you or your loved one is dealing with stress that demands medical intervention, call the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California to know about various anxiety disorders treatment centers in California. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 and seek the best anxiety disorders treatment in California.