Imagined Ugliness Can be Treated with Internet-Based CBT

Imagined ugliness, or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) as it is known, can be treated with internet-based CBT, according to a recent randomised study, the first of its kind ever conducted. The new treatment, which is published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has been developed by researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and has the potential to increase access to care for sufferers of BDD.

People suffering from BDD have a preoccupation with perceived flaws in one's physical appearance, despite looking normal. However, even though the diagnosis is associated with an elevated risk of suicide, higher rate of sick leave and considerable distress, BDD has long been neglected by the care services, leaving sufferers struggling to find the help they need.

In order to increase access to therapy, a new type of internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been developed and tested in the largest treatment study to date. After twelve weeks' of treatment, one in every three patients no longer met criteria for a diagnosis of BDD.

"Our results show that internet-based CBT outperformed supportive therapy, and that its therapeutic effect is fully comparable with that achieved by conventional CBT," says the study's first author Jesper Enander at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

A majority of the 94 patients included in the study had been suffering from BDD for many years and had had previous contact with the healthcare services. One in five had undergone one to six plastic surgery operations trying to 'fix' perceived flaws in their appearance. For the study, the group was randomly assigned to two forms of therapy: internet-based CBT or supportive therapy. Those assigned to this latter control group were later offered CBT.

Immediately after the therapy programme ended, half of the people in the CBT group showed greatly reduced symptoms. One third were completely cured. CBT also improved the participants’ quality of life and reduced depressive symptoms. Of the participants who had major depressive disorder at the start of the study, half were no longer depressed at the end of the study.

The researchers hope that the treatment will eventually be made generally available, so that more BDD sufferers can get access to treatment that works.

"Many BDD suffers receive no treatment at all, partly because the condition is relatively unknown within the healthcare services but also because people with the disorder tend not to seek treatment out of fear that they'll be dismissed as superficial or not be taken seriously," says principal investigator Christian Rück at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience. "Most of the study participants also said it was the possibility to do the therapy online that made them seek any help at all in the first place."

The study was financed by ALF funds from Karolinska Institutet and the Stockholm County Council, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Society of Medicine.

Therapist-guided Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy for body dysmorphic disorder: A single-blind randomised controlled trial, Jesper Enander, Erik Andersson, David Mataix-Cols, Linn Lichtenstein, Katarina Alström, Gerhard Andersson, Brjánn Ljótsson, Christian Rück, British Medical Journal , BMJ 2016;352:i24, online 2 February 2016.

Karolinska Institutet is one of the world's leading medical universities. Its vision is to significantly contribute to the improvement of human health. Karolinska Institutet accounts for over 40 per cent of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden and offers the country's broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet selects the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine.

Most Popular Now

EyeFocus Eye Care Innovation Conference

31 January 2017, London, UK. EyeFocus is holding a one day conference about eye-care innovation to end the second EyeFocus program. The conference is instead of the traditional demo day, and...

Read more

New Virtual Reality Technology may Impro…

A combination of traditional physical therapy and technology may improve the motor skills and mobility of an impaired hand by having its partner, more mobile hand lead by example through...

Read more

European Commission Seeks Input on a Ref…

Smart wearables provide technology-based solutions to pressing societal and economic challenges in the areas of healthy ageing, elderly care, emergency management, safety at work, productivity enhancement, training of professionals, energy...

Read more

Top 20 eHealth News of 2016

Look back at the most prominent moments from the year 2016. We are proud to announce the 20 most popular eHealth News from 2016, the most commonly viewed news articles...

Read more

conhIT Newcomer Awards 2017: Health IT I…

25 - 27 April 2017, Berlin, Germany. By bringing representatives of the Health IT industry and other Healthcare institutions together with prospective young employees conhIT 2017, Europe's leading event for Health...

Read more

Philips and Leading Network of Healthcar…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) today announced the signing of a 10-year strategic partnership agreement with the Expert Group of Companies, one of Russia's leading network of healthcare centers...

Read more

Ireland's First Babies Born with an Elec…

The HSE and eHealth Ireland are delighted to announce the arrival of Emily, one of Ireland’s first newborns to have their own electronic health record from birth. Weighing 7lb 5oz...

Read more

MSD Innovation Factory: SMART STOCK Chal…

Pharmacy Chains in the EEMEA Region are growing rapidly. These are in the range of 150+ pharmacy outlets or so called PoS (Point of Sale). Thousands of prescriptions are being...

Read more

Dudley Group Adds Allscripts SunriseTM E…

In the fourth quarter of 2016, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust selected Allscripts (NASDAQ:MDRX) fully integrated health IT solution to help achieve its objective to become a fully digital...

Read more

Philips Highlights Cloud-Based Innovatio…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) is showcasing innovative connected health products and solutions that empower consumers to become ever-more engaged in their health. Leveraging Philips' expertise in the consumer...

Read more

MSD Innovation Factory: INNOREP Challeng…

Nowadays, pharmaceutical launches are becoming harder and more competitive. In some cases, MSD products are neither the only nor the first player in the market. Besides, clinical data can be...

Read more

MSD Innovation Factory: EDU CARE Challen…

At healthcare professionals' waiting room around the globe there is a repeated scenario: inattentive patients spend their time before being seen by their healthcare professionals. Sometimes playing with their smartphones...

Read more
(HEALTH IT) SPACE - Take a look at who has just Joined