Treating body dysmorphic disorder with medication: evidence, misconceptions, and a suggested approach

Body Image. 2008 Mar;5(1):13-27. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2007.12.003. Epub 2008 Mar 5.

Abstract

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a relatively common and often disabling disorder with high morbidity and mortality. Both psychotropic medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are considered first-line treatments for BDD, and medication treatment is often essential for more severely ill and suicidal patients. In this practical overview of the pharmacotherapy of BDD, we briefly describe BDD's clinical features, associated morbidity, and how to recognize and diagnose BDD. We describe the importance of forming a therapeutic alliance with the patient, the need for psychoeducation, and other essential groundwork for successful treatment of BDD. We review available pharmacotherapy research, with a focus on serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, or SRIs), which are currently considered the medication of choice for BDD. Many patients have substantial improvement in core BDD symptoms, psychosocial functioning, quality of life, suicidality, and other aspects of BDD when treated with appropriate pharmacotherapy that targets BDD symptoms. We also discuss practical issues such as dosing, length of treatment, and potential side effects associated with the use of SRIs. In addition, we discuss pharmacotherapy approaches that can be tried if SRI treatment alone is not adequately helpful. Finally, some misconceptions about pharmacotherapy, gaps in knowledge about BDD's treatment, and the need for additional research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Buspirone / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Humans
  • Pimozide / therapeutic use
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Somatoform Disorders / drug therapy
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology

Substances

  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Pimozide
  • Buspirone