Body dysmorphic disorder visual retraining program

June 13, 2017
Body dysmorphic disorder visual retraining program
Those with BDD have difficulty recognising faces, bodies and emotions. Credit: Swinburne University of Technology

A world-first study is aiming to alleviate symptoms of those with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) through a unique visual retraining program. BDD results in an exaggerated perception of aspects of personal appearance.

Using eye-tracking technology, the initial stage of the study tracks the eye movements of individuals with BDD, exploring how they view faces and bodies, as well as conduct visual searches.

Participants can then undertake a visual retraining program designed to align their visual patterns closer to those of average individuals.

A research group led by Swinburne's Professor Susan Rossell has corroborated and conducted research showing that BDD is associated with anomalies in processing a range of appearance and non-appearance related stimuli.

"This includes difficulties with face and emotion recognition, object recognition and attention," Professor Rossell says.

Some of these anomalies can be attributed to a preference for local processing, at the expense of higher-order global perception. In other words, people with BDD were seen as more likely to focus on smaller details at the expense of the overall 'big picture'.

"Treatment for BDD typically focuses on reducing symptoms and distress, not changing visual perception.

"Our program is unique as it focuses on addressing visual aspects of the disorder."

In a Swinburne neuroimaging study, it was also demonstrated that persons with BDD had cortical thinning (reduced brain volumes) in areas of the brain that are known to be important for visual processing.

Professor Rossell hopes that the visual retraining program will help those affected by BDD to achieve more adaptive visual processing.

Obsessing over the data

Aiming to further understand BDD, Swinburne's research group has also been exploring the link between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and BDD.

Published in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, their findings reported that persons with BDD, or OCD, tend to experience similar levels of anxiety and depression, and may also exhibit similar patterns of behaviour.

"Individuals with either disorder are likely to engage in repetitive or ritualistic behaviours, for instance, involving repeated checking, but in BDD these actions tend to manifest  in areas related to one's physical appearance, such as checking how they look in mirrors or other reflective surfaces," Professor Rossell says.

"These activities can take up to three hours a day for those with BDD."

Explore further: People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain anomalies

More information: Wei Lin Toh et al. Characterisation of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) versus obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): In light of current DSM-5 nosology, Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jocrd.2017.01.002

F. Beilharz et al. A systematic review of visual processing and associated treatments in body dysmorphic disorder, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica (2017). DOI: 10.1111/acps.12705

Sally A. Grace et al. Reduced cortical thickness in body dysmorphic disorder, Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2016.11.004

Related Stories

People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain anomalies

March 6, 2015
People with anorexia nervosa and with body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information, a new UCLA study reveals.

Blind people have brain map for 'visual' observations too

May 17, 2017
Is what you're looking at an object, a face, or a tree? When processing visual input, our brain uses different areas to recognize faces, body parts, scenes, and objects. Scientists at KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, ...

People with body-image disorders process 'big picture' visual information abnormally

May 26, 2011
People suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD — a severe mental illness characterized by debilitating misperceptions that one appears disfigured and ugly — process visual information abnormally, even when ...

An innovative model for the study of vision

April 11, 2017
A new study shows for the first time that the progressive processing of the visual signal underlying human object recognition is similarly implemented in the rat brain, thus extending the range of experimental techniques, ...

Do you obsess over your appearance? Your brain might be wired abnormally

April 29, 2013
Body dysmorphic disorder is a disabling but often misunderstood psychiatric condition in which people perceive themselves to be disfigured and ugly, even though they look normal to others. New research at UCLA shows that ...

Study helps fill in gaps in our visual perception

January 21, 2016
A Dartmouth College study sheds light on how the brain fills in the gaps of how we visually perceive the world around us.

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.