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Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Consider seeing a mental health provider for treatment, which may include psychotherapy and medication.
  • See a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of an eating disorder, like anorexia or bulimia
  • Using strategies that change the way you think about yourself may help reduce your symptoms.
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Emergency Care

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  • If you have thoughts or plans of hurting yourself, call 911 or 988 (the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline).

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All treatments for body dysmorphic disorder
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When to see a healthcare provider

The most effective treatment for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is often a combination of evidence-based therapy and medication. Some people improve from psychotherapy alone.

Reach out to a mental health provider if your fixation with a body part begins to take over your life. For example, if you are upset and preoccupied with the body part, avoid socializing, buy various products, or spend a lot of time examining yourself.

Body dysmorphia often causes depression and anxiety. Many people with BDD also have eating disorders. It’s important to see a psychologist, clinical social worker, or mental health counselor if you have any of these issues.

Getting diagnosed

A mental health provider will diagnose you based on a clinical interview (using diagnostic criteria) and possibly a questionnaire, like the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Questionnaire (BDDQ). They will also ask you about your mood, eating habits, and other issues to check if you also have other mental health disorders like mood disorders or obsessive compulsive disorder.

What to expect from your visit

A therapist might try one of several evidence-based treatments for body dysmorphic disorder. The most effective therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn to challenge and change negative thoughts, feelings and behavioral patterns related to BDD.
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) techniques help you reduce the behaviors related to BDD.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) helps you learn how to tolerate thoughts and symptoms.
  • Mind-body techniques (biofeedback, mindfulness, meditation) may be recommended to support your therapy.

You may have to see a psychiatrist or primary care physician if you need medications. There are no specific medications to treat BDD, but antidepressant medications, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help.

Antidepressants can have side effects. Sometimes they cause suicidal thoughts. Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Go to the ER or call 988 (Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) if you are having feelings of suicide.

Prescription medications

Prescription SSRIs include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)

Types of providers

  • A primary care provider can give a referral to a behavioral health clinician and prescribe antidepressant medications.
  • Mental health providers include psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors—they offer psychotherapy.
  • Psychiatrists prescribe antidepressant medications and some also do psychotherapy.
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