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

SAP IoT Startup Accelerator

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator is a structured co-innovation program for selected B2B startups focusing on the Internet of Things. The Accelerator helps startups grow and scale their businesses alongside...

Read more

Paving the Way for eHealth Interoperabil…

The EURO-CAS project launched operations today to deliver the eHealth Conformity Assessment Scheme for Europe in 2018. This scheme will help European health systems assess the conformity of eHealth products...

Read more

SkinVision Unveils Breakthrough Algorith…

Dutch mobile health startup SkinVision has revealed its new algorithm that can detect most common forms of deadly skin cancer. Previously focused on detecting melanoma skin cancer, the app can...

Read more

eHealth Hub Solution Match Call: Hospita…

Solution Match is one of the services offered by the EU-funded initiative eHealth Hub, intending to promote and boost up commercialization. The eHealth Hub aims to provide long-term support to...

Read more

Wearable AI System can Detect a Conversa…

It's a fact of nature that a single conversation can be interpreted in very different ways. For people with anxiety or conditions such as Asperger's, this can make social situations...

Read more

Biovision World Life Science Forum 2017

4 - 6 April 2017, Lyon, France. Biovision World Life Science Forum is fostering a unique approach to meet, connect and collaborate between international decision-makers from the academic, civil society, policy-making...

Read more

Doctrina Raises €1,020,000 of New Capita…

Doctrina, a start-up company transforming the traditional transfer of knowledge between pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, has raised a total of €1,020,000 in series A funding. The investment will enable Doctrina...

Read more

DIY Live Cell Imaging Using a Smartphone

A recent study from Uppsala University shows how smartphones can be used to make movies of living cells, without the need for expensive equipment. The study is published in the...

Read more

Horder Healthcare Uses IMS MAXIMS Electr…

Healthcare provider Horder Healthcare is to deploy an electronic patient record (EPR) from software provider IMS MAXIMS, in order to improve care for thousands of patients and facilitate its digital...

Read more

Brain-Computer Interface Allows Complete…

A brain-computer interface that can decipher the thoughts of people who are unable to communicate could revolutionize the lives of those living with complete locked-in syndrome according to a new...

Read more

Pitch Your Digital Health Solution at th…

The second eHealth Roadshow, promoted by the new EU-funded eHealth Hub project, will take place on the 6th of April in Stuttgart, Germany, in the frame of the Medtec Europe...

Read more

Deep Learning in Healthcare Summit

28 - 01 March 2017, London, UK. Discover advances in deep learning tools and techniques from the world's leading innovators across industry, academia and the healthcare sector. Learn from the experts...

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