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How Hypnosis can Treat Body Dysmorphic Disorder

written by: Carma Haley Shoemaker • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/18/2011

Body dysmorphic disorder causes those it affects to obsess about their 'imperfections' to the point where it interferes with their daily lives. One treatment option that many claim has helped them is hypnosis. This article offers an insight into body dysmorphic hypnosis.

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    Body Dysmorphic Disorder

    Everyone has those days where they don’t like what they see in the mirror. There are even days when some feel the looks of their youth have left them. While these may affect mood or attitude for a minute, an hour, or a day, most people are usually distracted by daily life, job, family, or friends, and soon, these thoughts are long forgotten. However, there are some whose days are filled with thoughts – categorized more as obsessions – about the flaws of their face and body.

    Sometimes called "imagined ugliness," body dysmorphic disorder (also known as BDD), can significantly affect a person’s life and relationships. BDD is psychiatric condition in which people suffer from a distorted view of minor physical defects – real or imagined. Those affected can’t stop thinking about their “flaws," and they may even seek numerous medical procedures to correct them. In an attempt to hide their appearance, or due to the amount of shame they feel regarding their looks, those who suffer from BDD don’t want to be seen by anyone, and may isolate themselves from family, friends, and in severe cases, society. BDD sufferers have trouble functioning and excelling in work or social situations. The feelings and belief that they are defective can cause both emotional and psychological distress.

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    What is Hypnosis?

    According to Hypnosis.com, there isn't a definitive dividing line between the normal waking state and a hypnotic or trance state. Hypnosis can be used to create desired changes in mental and physical well-being. However, hypnosis is not a sleep state. While in hypnosis, an individual is simply more focused and their concentration is more centered.

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    Body Dysmorphic Hypnosis

    Body dysmorphic hypnosis is most commonly used in combination with behavioral or cognitive therapy. When the treatments are combined, they may have a prompt and positive effect. Body dysmorphic hypnosis is used as an aid to retrain the subconscious mind from the patterns of obsessive thinking.

    The individual is taught to think differently or to rid themselves of the obsessive thoughts and feelings that contribute to their BDD. In addition, body dysmorphic hypnosis induces a state of relaxation which helps to decrease anxiety and panic levels. Therapists can use this relaxation or hypnotic state to help the patient focus on altering their negative thoughts and feelings about their appearance.

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    Typical Body Dysmorphic Hypnosis Session

    A typical body dysmorphic disorder hypnosis session is conducted in a therapist’s or hypnotist’s office. The patient is made to feel comfortable and either sits in a chair or rests on a couch. Once comfortable, the patient may be asked to close their eyes. While closing the eyes is not necessary for the hypnotic state, it does help with relaxation.

    The therapist guides the patient into a hypnotic state, sometimes using soft music in the background, but most often through the use of tone of voice, and guided word-imagery. This leads to a deeper state of comfort, and the person finds themselves in a profound level of comfort and ease. At this point, the therapist begins to instruct the patient through a series of guided visualizations. These may include relaxing body parts, visualizing flaws as they truly are, or imagining their distortedly viewed body parts as becoming normal. At the end of the session the therapist guides the patient out of the hypnotic state using pace, tone of voice, and word-imagery.

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    Self-Hypnosis

    An alternative to therapist-guided body dysmorphic hypnosis is the use of self-hypnosis techniques. Typically this makes use of pre-recorded material on a CD, mp3, or other file download. Then, at the convenience of the patient, a full body dysmorphic hypnosis session is available whenever it is needed.

    When using self-hypnosis therapy for BDD, a patient can learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, how to control irrational fears and anxiety, how to be more open to accepting affirmations, and how to have a more realistic image of self.

    Using a self-help program for body dysmorphic hypnosis can be an effective, simple, and less expensive alternative to therapist-guided hypnosis.

    NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.

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    Resources

    BDD Central. (2011). http://www.bddcentral.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1.

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Mayo Clinic. (2010). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-dysmorphic-disorder/DS00559. Accessed January 4, 2011.

    Hypnosis.com. (2011). http://www.hypnosis.com/whatishypnosis.aspx. Accessed January 2011.