Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment: What are the Best Options?

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What are the Best Treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a serious illness described as preoccupation with minor or perceived physical flaws. These flaws are normally of the skin, nose, and hair. Cosmetic surgery is often considered by people with body dysmorphic disorder, however, surgery does not take away the anxiety over appearance.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and certain medications are the common body dysmorphic disorder treatment. Read on to see why and how they help people with this disorder.


Psychotherapy helps people learn about their condition and their feelings, moods, thoughts, and behaviors. By using the tools given in psychotherapy, people with body dysmorphic disorder can learn to head off negative thoughts and see things realistically. By not seeing perceived flaws each time they look at themselves, stress and anxiety are relieved and minimized.

Psychotherapy can also offer tips and tricks to use in learning healthy and realistic ways to control habits that may be negative such as constantly looking for mirrors, picking at skin, and attempting to hide perceived flaws through makeup, hats, or other objects.

Some specific forms of psychotherapy that may be used for body dysmorphic disorder are:

Behavior therapy is used to identify harmful habits and replace them with healthier forms of behavior. This form of therapy is commonly referred to as behavior modification therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form or type of psychotherapy that places emphasis on how we feel and what we do.

Here is an example of cognitive behavioral therapy treatment steps.

A person believes that their nose is a “flaw”, that it is too large. This person spends time putting on makeup to make the nose visually appear slimmer every morning before leaving the home for any occasion. The therapist will ask the person to attend a social situation without putting the makeup on.

The compulsive behavior is to constantly check the nose to ensure it does not look large and to cover it up through makeup, lowering the face so the nose is not so visible or placing the hand or an object in front of the face.

The therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help the person change beliefs about their appearance that are perceived instead of real.

Mindfulness-based CBT is based on learning to be non judgmental in accepting uncomfortable mind based or psychological events. Coming from the standpoint that much of our psychological anxiety is from attempting to control or minimize discomfort, mindful-based CBT works at developing willingness to experience uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and urges. The willingness to experience these feelings must come without using avoidance behaviors or habits and mental rituals.

Medications for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

While there are no medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved specifically to treat body dysmorphic disorder, there are psychiatric medicines that seem to help treat this disorder. Psychiatric medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants that normally are used to treat depression can be used for this disorder on an off-label basis.

These prescription medications affect serotonin levels which can have an effect on obsession levels and mood swings.

Using cognitive behavioral therapy and these medications, people who pursue body dysmorphic disorder treatment have a very good chance of learning to accept body differences and realize that perceptions are not reality. Learning and accepting these differences can mean a big difference in the levels of stress and anxiety that they live with on a daily basis.


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