When looking in the mirror becomes unbearable
Results from a study on the self-perception of BDD sufferers published
People with a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are obsessed with the way that they look and view their bodies as deformed and unsightly. For the first time, the feelings and thoughts which sufferers have when looking at their own reflection has been the subject of a study by Dr. Ines Kollei from the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy (head of department: Prof. Dr. Yesim Erim) at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). The results of the study show that building up positive body-related thoughts and providing strategies for dealing with negative emotions are key factors for the success of BDD therapy. Dr. Kollei’s results were published at the start of this year in the ‘Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry’ (Volume 45/Issue 1/March 2014/Pages 144–151).
The starting point for the study ‘Body-related cognitions, affect and post-event processing in body dysmorphic disorder’ was a body perception exercise. The participants from the different control groups – each containing 30 people with a body dysmorphic disorder, with a depressive disorder and without any psychological disorder respectively – looked at themselves in a full-length mirror for 30 minutes. During the exercise, they spoke their thoughts out loud (‘think aloud’ method) and the feelings which they experienced were documented afterwards using a questionnaire. Dr. Ines Kollei and her team discovered that all of the control groups expressed negative thoughts, however, barely any positive evaluations were expressed in the BDD group, such as ‘my hair is nice’. ‘In addition, the BDD sufferers experienced a great deal of anger and sadness after observation in the mirror and complained about their own appearance after the exercise,” says the psychologist. The results of the study contain important indicators for the treatment of BDD.
For people who suffer from this psychological disorder, looking in the mirror plays a particular role. They often check their own appearance disproportionately often. Permanently worrying about their outer appearance and constantly feeling like they have a flaw is exhausting for sufferers and often leads to limitations in their day-to-day social and professional lives.
Dr. Ines Kollei
Phone: +49 9131 85 44652