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Body dysmorphic disorder and cosmetic dermatology: more than skin deep

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Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is relatively common in cosmetic practise, yet it remains under-recognized.

BDD patients are unnaturally concerned with minimal or non-existent flaws, most commonly in the skin (e.g. facial acne or scarring) and hair (e.g. hair loss). Many patients develop social avoidance and suffer occupational or academic impairment. More severely ill patients may become housebound or even attempt suicide. Despite the minimal or non-existent nature of the perceived appearance flaws, patients with BDD may request dermatological treatments such as isotretinoin or dermabrasion. Although treatment outcome has received little investigation, it appears that most patients are dissatisfied with dermatological treatment and, even if the outcome is objectively acceptable, they do not worry any the less about their appearance afterwards.

In contrast, a majority of patients respond to serotonin reuptake inhibitors or cognitive behavioural therapy. Treatment of these patients is best given by an experienced health professional. This may be a mental health professional or a dermatologist with an interest in psychological medicine.

Keywords: body dysmorphic disorder; cosmetic dermatology; dysmorphophobia

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Mental Health Research Institute and University of Melbourne, 2: Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, RI USA

Publication date: April 1, 2004


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