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Debilitating Body Image Disorder Often Begins In Teens; Likely To Be Missed

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Teen-agers' concerns with their appearance should not be dismissed lightly. The image obsession known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) typically begins in young people and left untreated may lead to impairment in functioning and even to suicide attempts, according to a new study by Brown University researchers, the largest study ever conducted on this age group.

In an analysis of 33 children and adolescents diagnosed with BDD (a preoccupation with nonexistent or slight defects in appearance), 94 percent reported impairment in social functioning; 39 percent had been hospitalized; and 21 percent had attempted suicide.

A specific class of antidepressants - serotonin reuptake inhibitors - proved effective in reducing the BDD symptoms for 53 percent of the participants who took them, said study authors Ralph S. Albertini, M.D., and Katharine A. Phillips, M.D., in the April Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study consisted of 30 females and three males, aged 6 to 17. It is estimated that BDD begins before age 18 in 70 percent of cases, most commonly at age 13. The subjects had been referred for evaluation and treatment to a BDD clinical and research program at Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., by community therapists, parents or by themselves.

Sixty-one percent of bodily preoccupations focused on the skin; 55 percent on hair; 48 percent on weight; 39 percent on the face; 30 percent on teeth; 27 percent each on legs and nose. All body parts of concern to the subjects appeared to the interviewers to be normal or to have only minimal anomalies.

Most participants spent more than three hours a day thinking about their perceived defects; some said it was all they thought about. Many avoided making friends and dating. Eighty-five percent reported the disorder interfered with academic perform
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Contact: Kristen Lans
Kristen_Lans@brown.edu
401-863-7508
Brown University
24-Mar-1999


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