Clomipramine vs desipramine crossover trial in body dysmorphic disorder: selective efficacy of a serotonin reuptake inhibitor in imagined ugliness

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999 Nov;56(11):1033-9. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.56.11.1033.


Background: Body dysmorphic disorder (preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance) is a common and disabling disorder associated with high rates of delusional symptoms and suicide attempts. Although preliminary studies suggest that serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be effective for body dysmorphic disorder, to date no controlled treatment studies have been published.

Methods: Forty patients were enrolled and 29 were randomized into a 16-week, double-blind, crossover-design study of clomipramine, a potent serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and active control desipramine, a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Outcome measures included specific ratings of body dysmorphic disorder severity, delusionality, and functional impairment.

Results: Clomipramine was superior to desipramine in the acute treatment of body dysmorphic disorder symptoms as measured by assessment of patients' obsessive preoccupation with perceived body defects, repetitive behaviors in response to this preoccupation, and global ratings of symptom severity. Treatment efficacy was independent of the presence or severity of comorbid diagnoses of obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or social phobia. Likewise, clomipramine was equally effective regardless of whether the patients had insight or held their dysmorphic misperception with delusional intensity. Clomipramine was also superior to desipramine in improving functional disability.

Conclusions: Clomipramine is more effective than desipramine in the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder and is effective even among those patients who are delusional.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Clomipramine / therapeutic use*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Delusions / drug therapy
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Desipramine / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Clomipramine
  • Desipramine