Psychologists in Canada are in the process of developing a cognitive behavioral therapy program to help treat body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD. While still in the developmental stages, the program has so far proven highly successful and is planned to continue. BDD is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. People who struggle with it try very hard to deal with mental health problems by controlling their physical appearance. They will fixate on their skin, hair, teeth, eyes, stomach, chest, or buttocks, often having numerous surgeries or other alterations (such as teeth whitening), yet still be unpleased with the result.
BDD is a fairly common disorder, and in Canada alone, an estimated 350,000 people suffer from it. However, in addition to ritualistically channeling mental health struggles onto the body, social isolation is another major signifier of the condition. People who struggle with BDD are embarrassed to appear in public, and as a result, may have a smaller number of close, supportive relationships, meaning fewer people around who can urge them to get help. This new Canadian program is working to develop a treatment program that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help people recognize and overcome BDD by addressing the underlying mental health issues that contribute to the development of the condition.
While people with BDD turn to plastic surgeons, orthodontists, and other appearance-related professionals, “what they really need is psychological support and assistance,” said Dr. Kieron O’Connor of the University of Montreal, who is co-developing the specialized therapy with doctoral student Annie Taillon. Thus far, their program is still in the research stage, but BDD sufferers who have volunteered to participate have seen dramatic improvements: appearance-related fixations have reduced significantly, ritualized behaviors have gone down by half, and depressive symptoms associated with image fixations have decreased by a third.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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