Entries in Body Dysmorphic Disorder (4)


Anorexia Patients Overestimate Their Own Sizes in Study

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Now there's more proof to show that patients with anorexia can't tell how thin they've actually become.

Researchers from the University Hospital of Lille in France took a new approach to asking anorexic patients about how they perceived their body size. They used a projector to shine the outlines of doors of different widths on a wall and asked participants whether they would be able to fit through them. Then, researchers asked patients whether someone standing nearby would be able to fit through the same openings.

Although the 25 women without anorexia nervosa were able to answer correctly in both scenarios, the 25 women who had anorexia were only able to answer correctly when they were deciding whether someone else could fit, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"I think it's really fabulous that these researchers are able to provide scientific proof of what people who have worked with these patients have known for a very long time," said Dr. Elizabeth Frenkel, a supervising psychologist at the Princeton HealthCare System's eating disorder program. "They're trying to demonstrate that you can show a clinical and statistically significant difference between people who have these disorders and people who don't."

Psychologists said it isn't "new news" that anorexia patients have body dysmorphic disorder -- a preoccupation with "defects" in their body shape that aren't really there -- but it sheds light on an interesting piece of the anorexia puzzle.

"It's one of those compelling phenomena where you have a person who appears to be completely cognitively intact," said Phillip Levindowsky, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School. "How could they be so off in their ability to make these judgments?"

Although this study proves what doctors have been seeing for years, the research is still in its early stages. Dr. Cynthia Bulik, who directs the University of North Carolina's Eating Disorders Program, said a study of only 25 anorexic patients and 25 controls is not enough to draw conclusions, so the researchers' work will have to be replicated.

The researchers in France who authored the study were not available for comment.

Dr. Susan Albers, a therapist and spokeswoman for the Academy for Eating Disorders, said no matter how many times a patient hears how thin she (or he) has become, the patient doesn't believe it. In fact, hearing that they don't see their body accurately is often frightening and causes the patient to become defensive.

Albers said anorexic patients are often intelligent high-achievers.

"They genuinely know what they feel," she said.

Bulik said she generally has to "agree to disagree" with her patients on the subject because they just don't experience their size the way outsiders do.

"A good example is that we all have different pain thresholds, and it is impossible to experience someone else's experience of a pain level," Bulik said. "Someone might find a needle stick to be extremely painful. If you say to them, 'Ah, c'mon, that doesn't hurt,' you are trying to impose your experience on them and you are not validating the fact that they are feeling things differently than you."

So she and Albers remind patients that they do not share the same perception as everyone else. Albers added that the study will be helpful to hand to patients and their family to explain body dysmorphia in "black and white."

Frenkel said it's difficult to alter a patient's body image, so she teaches patients coping mechanisms, which help with recovery. Over time, patients can regain a healthier body image.

The disorder can last six months or a lifetime, Bulik said, adding that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of a psychiatric disorder. A quarter of all patients relapse or have chronic anorexia, she said.

Although some professionals suggest that eating disorders may stem from serotonin problems in the brain, there is no "gold standard" of care known to produce a cure, Frenkel said. Part of that is because research on eating disorders is still in its early stages.

Although 10 million people suffer from anorexia nervosa, only $7 million has gone toward research, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. That's compared with 4.5 million people who have Alzheimer's disease and 2.2 million people who have schizophrenia, which get $412 million and $249 million toward research, respectively.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Undergoes Plastic Surgery to Look Like Superman

The late Christopher Reeve as Superman in 1978. Herbert Chavez used Reeve's nose as a reference for one of his plastic surgeries. Warner Bros. Pictures/Getty Images (QUEZON CITY, Philippines) -- Not even kryptonite could keep Herbert Chavez, 35, from pursuing his dream to look like Superman.

News service Bandila recently profiled Chavez, who lives in the Philippines and has been going under the knife since 1995. He now has a cleft chin, a thinner nose (to mimic actor Christopher Reeves’ nose), fatter lips (from silicone injections) and thigh implants. Based on the before and after pictures, there appear to have been other surgeries as well.

His apartment is decorated with memorabilia featuring the Man of Steel, including pillows, photos and life-sized statues., a website offering consumer reviews and expert Q&A about cosmetic procedures, translated many of the story’s details, including that Chavez is a “pageant trainer.”

Given the frequency of Chavez’s surgeries, it’s not surprising that one psychologist in Bandila’s report said he might have body dysmorphic disorder, defined by the Mayo Clinic as a chronic mental illness “in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance.”

>>> Watch the ABS/CBN piece here <<<

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Disorder Makes Sufferers Think They're Hideous

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eugene Bata is young and handsome.  The New York City resident could easily be mistaken for a younger version of dashing actors Mario Lopez and Ralph Macchio.

But until recently, Bata, 20, saw anything but Hollywood good looks when he studied himself in the mirror.  What he saw, he said, was straight out of a horror film.

He saw an ugly man, with small eyes, an oddly-shaped nose and skin so wrinkled that he considered getting Botox treatments.

"When I looked in the mirror, I wouldn't be able to stop, because I was desperate to fix my face, to camouflage it … There were times I would stare for hours, that I couldn't tear myself away," he told ABC's Good Morning America.

Bata suffers from body dysmorphic disorder.  People with this mental illness see a distorted -- and often grotesque -- version of themselves when they look into the mirror.

His self-loathing grew so strong that he started missing school.  At first, it was just for a few days, then a few weeks.  At his lowest point, he contemplated suicide.

In his attempts to make himself look presentable, he showered up to five times per day, and even bought makeup for his nose.

Severe BDD can ruin a person's life, Dr. Katharine Phillips, a psychiatrist and BDD expert, told GMA.

"People with this disorder think they're so ugly, they just don't want to leave the house.  I've seen people with BDD that haven't left the house in five or six years," she said.

As many as five million Americans are thought to be affected by the condition.

"It's a very secret disorder," Phillips said.  "Many people with body dysmorphic disorder are very ashamed of their symptoms.  They're worried if they talk about their fear … people are going to think they're vain.  And the reality is, BDD is not vanity."

Telltale signs of BDD include a desire to look into the mirror all the time -- or not at all -- the urge to change clothes multiple times a day, and a deep interest in -- even an addiction to -- cosmetic procedures.

It is not clear what causes BDD, but researchers believe genetics and traumatic childhood experiences, such as bullying and parental neglect, play critical roles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One Third of Nose Job Patients Have Body Image Problems

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.) -- Most people looking to get a nose job, or rhinoplasty as the proceedure is technically known, hope for a better-looking nose, but a new study found that 33 percent of them show signs of body dysmorphic disorder or BDD -- a chronic mental illness characterized by excessive worry over appearance that interferes with daily life.

The condition does not improve after plastic surgery, and often times, symptoms worsen post-surgery.

The study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, surveyed more than 250 Belgian patients seeking plastic surgery to improve the appearance of their nose.  Researchers found that one-third of those patients had moderate to severe symptoms of BDD.

Symptoms of BDD include extreme self-consciousness, excessive grooming, frequent examination in the mirror or avoiding mirrors all together and steering clear of social situations because of one's appearance.

"This study shows that the prevalence of BDD symptoms in a cosmetic rhinoplasty population is high and that the severity of symptoms has a clearly negative effect on daily functioning," the authors concluded.

People who already had one nose job and sought a second one were even more likely to have self-image issues.  Also of note, the shape of a person's nose did not relate to the severity of BDD symptoms.

"Almost everybody is going to have some degree of unhappiness with their appearance, but when concern becomes excessive and interferes with day-to-day functioning, where the person can't stop thinking about it, that's when we start to worry about body dysmorphic disorder," said David B. Sarwer, a Philadelphia-based psychologist who wrote an editorial about the study.

"When somebody comes in, especially for a nose, it's important to ask that patient about their psychological history," said Dr. Malcolm Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Roth said rhinoplasty is the most difficult plastic surgery procedure to perform, but along with the procedure's complexity, the nose also holds importance for another reason.

"When you look in the mirror, it's the first thing you see," said Roth.  "If someone is unhappy with aspects of their current life situation, the nose is often the first thing they're going to see and they may blame the nose for their having social or work issues."

Experts say the study highlights the need to be particularly aware of this psychological condition during the screening and consultation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio