Lexapro and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition characterized by an obsession with minor or imagined flaws in appearance. It’s closely linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder, with many overlapping symptoms and similar debilitating results for the affected person. Someone with BDD may have trouble going to public places or engaging in social situations; the fear of being seen can severely interfere with normal life. This obsession with appearance is usually accompanied by depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Currently, there are few effective treatment approaches for this mental health issue. Standard treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy along with certain antidepressant medications.

Regardless of treatment, relapse of symptoms in people with BDD is quite common. Recent research has focused on identifying ideal pharmaceutical approaches—in other words, determining which antidepressants promise the highest rate of success. A clinical trial is currently underway to study whether Lexapro (escitalopram) offers long-term benefits to those diagnosed with BDD. Sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital, this trial consists of experimental and placebo comparison, and each participant will undergo more than nine months of treatment. Several other antidepressant treatments have been hampered by the fact that positive outcomes are only temporary. This study intends to reveal long-term safety and efficacy.

The Lexapro and BDD study will be complete in early 2013 and hopes to compile data on 128 participants. Both genders are eligible for the study. Participants must have a diagnosis of BDD within six months and a score of 24 or above on the BDD-Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. Exclusion criteria include suicidal or homicidal thoughts and drug or alcohol dependence. Because the study is geographically limited, participants should also live within driving distance of Boston, Massachusetts or Providence, Rhode Island.

All participants in the study will begin with a 14-week regimen of Lexapro and weekly or twice-weekly visits to an outpatient center. After the initial phase, those who show improvement will be randomized to either a placebo group or an experimental group that continues receiving Lexapro. Regular observation will continue for an additional six months. If at any point a participant’s condition worsens, he or she will be removed from the study and referred to appropriate treatment. Progress of disease symptoms and relapse rate will be carefully monitored in both groups. Ultimately, researchers hope to show that Lexapro can be a reasonably safe and effective treatment for BDD, providing a first-line option for medical professionals in dealing with a difficult mental health issue.


  1. Body dysmorphic disorder – MayoClinic.com. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 29, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-dysmorphic-disorder/DS00559/
  2. Effectiveness of Escitalopram in the Treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov. (n.d.). Home – ClinicalTrials.gov. Retrieved June 29, 2012, from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00149799?recr=Open&intr=%22Citalopram%22&rank=6

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