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Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder

New research shows that psychotherapy and drug therapy are effective treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Here’s the best way to overcome this body image disorder.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder was recognized as a psychological body image disorder in 1997 in the United States. Psychologists and doctors are researching the most effective treatments for Body Dysmorphic Disorder – which can, if untreated, lead to a variety of eating disorders.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a psychological condition in which a person typically obsesses about his or her face, hair, or body odor. People with body image disorder often pursue plastic surgery to change the perceived defect.

Since Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a psychological condition, this doesn’t work! In other words, cosmetic surgeries rarely treat self-image issues because they don’t tackle the “real” problem. In fact, plastic surgeries can make body image disorder worse, and even lead to eating disorders.

To learn more about this psychological condition, read Symptoms and Signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Jonathan Ipser of the University of Stellenbosch in Tygerberg analyzed five studies of how psychotherapy and drug therapy treat Body Dysmorphic Disorder and self-image issues. He found that psychotherapy and drug therapy can bring long-lasting relief to people who suffer from self-image issues.

Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder

“The key finding that treatment effects were maintained over a 4.5 month follow-up [period] after 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy indicates that such therapy may be effective in preventing remission over the longer term,” said Ipser, who was the lead reviewer of this research.

Therapies that Help People Overcome Body Image Disorder

Ipser’s analysis shows that people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder who take Prozac are three times more likely to overcome their body image or self-image issues than those who take a placebo (no drug therapy). He also found that anxiety and depression were reduced in people who participated in maintenance psychotherapy.

“This review reinforces the value of psychotherapy, along with medications, in treating people with psychiatric disorders,” said Eric Plakun, M.D., a spokesperson of the American Psychiatric Association. “People are not just receptor sites for molecules and can make significant and enduring changes through therapy alone or in combination with medications.”

Since this body image disorder is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, researchers are finding that treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder also work to treat Body Dysmorphic Disorder.


  • Ipser JC, Sander C, Stein DJ. Pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy for body dysmorphic disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD005332. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005332.pub2.

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