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17 January 2011
Body dysmorphia recovery "takes years"
by George Atkinson

In a study that tracked body dysmorphic disorder sufferers for eight years, Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital researchers found high rates of recovery, although that recovery can take more than five years. Body dysmorphic disorder is a severe mental illness in which sufferers obsess over nonexistent or slight defects in their physical appearance. The findings from the new study appear in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

"Compared to what we expected based on a prior longitudinal study of BDD, there was a surprisingly high recovery rate and a low recurrence rate in the present study," said Brown researcher Andri Bjornsson. After statistical adjustments, the recovery rate for sufferers in the study over eight years was 76 percent and the recurrence rate was 14 percent. While a few sufferers recovered within two years, only about half had recovered after five years.

Bjornsson cautions that because the subjects were identified through a broader anxiety study - rather than being recruited specifically because they had been diagnosed with BDD - they generally had more subtle cases of the disorder than people in other BDD studies. In fact, despite the sometimes-debilitating nature of BDD, a third of those in this study were working full-time.

The study acknowledges that many doctors are unfamiliar with BDD or may even be skeptical about the disorder. "We want to make people aware of BDD - aware that it exists and that it's a real mental illness," said Keller. "These people should be assessed very carefully and steered toward treatment very quickly."

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Source: Brown University

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