A study published in Psychiatry Research shows that individuals suffering from body dysmorphic disorder are likely to cope with a range of other problems.
Researchers set out to study how individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) compare to their peers, how common the disorder is among university students, and its relationship to physical and mental health.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, BDD is characterized by a preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in one’s own appearance. Mostly appearing during adolescence or young adulthood, it has previously been associated with increased risk of depression and suicide attempts.
An anonymous survey was sent to university students; 3,459 took part in the study. They answered questions about their use of alcohol and drugs, psychological and physical status, academic performance, sexual behavior, as well as their impulsivity and compulsivity. They also completed the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Questionnaire which investigated one’s appearance-related worries.
BDD was found to be among little under 2% of the students; more than half of them being male. Compared to the rest of the sample, individuals with this disorder were more likely to take part in compulsive sexual behavior, have worse academic performance, as well as show signs of depression, PTSD and anxiety. They were also more likely to be compulsive and impulsive.
Researchers hypothesized about compulsive sexual behavior as a response to the disorder in such a way that it allows the individual suffering from BDD to momentarily focus on something else other than the part of the body they hate, which in return again would lead to feeling more inadequate. However, the authors note that the main purpose of the study was examining the differences between the general population and individuals with BDD, not to search for causes and consequences. For that, they add, additional research would be needed – one with a longitudinal setting and a larger sample.
Finally, due to BDD’s association with mental health difficulties and its prevalence among students, it is important for clinicians to be aware of the signs pointing to the disorder and their timely identification, the authors conclude.
The study, “Body dysmorphic disorder and its relationship to sexuality, impulsivity, and addiction“, was authored by Jon E. Grant, Katherine Lust, and Samuel R. Chamberlain.