Body Dysmorphic Disorder : Capturing a prevalent but under-recognized disorder
Abstract: BackgroundIndividuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are highly distressed due to defects they perceive in their physical appearance that are not noticeable to others. The condition often leads to impaired functioning in relationships, socialization, and intimacy and a decreased ability to function in work, school, or other daily activities. Although BDD seems to be relatively prevalent, it is under-recognized by people in general and by health care professionals. Individuals with BDD are secretive about their symptoms, and they usually do not recognize that they are suffering from a psychiatric disorder. Instead, in an attempt to relieve their symptoms by correcting their perceived defects, they commonly seek dermatological treatment or cosmetic surgery. However, such interventions usually do not result in any decrease in BDD symptom severity, but can rather aggravate the symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial that health care professionals recognize BDD in order to offer adequate care. Prior to the studies conducted for this thesis, there were no known data regarding the prevalence of BDD in Sweden.Main aims(i) To translate a screening questionnaire for BDD (the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Questionnaire, BDDQ) into Swedish and validate the questionnaire in a community sample. (ii) To estimate the prevalence of BDD in the general population of Swedish women and in female dermatology patients. (iii) To explore BDD patients’ experiences of living with the disorder, including their experiences of the health care system.MethodsThe BDDQ was validated using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) as the gold standard for diagnosing BDD (Study I). The validated BDDQ was used to estimate the prevalence of BDD in a randomly selected population-based sample of Swedish women (n=2 885) (Study II) and in a consecutive sample of female dermatology patients (n=425) (Study III). In Studies II and III, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to assess symptoms of depression and anxiety. In Study III, quality of life was evaluated by the Dermatology Life Quality Index. BDD patients’ lived experiences were explored using a qualitative research design (Study IV). Fifteen individuals with BDD were interviewed, and the interviews were analysed using Interpretive Description.ResultsThe Swedish translation of the BDDQ displayed a sensitivity of 94%, a specidicity of 90% and a (positive) likelihood ratio of 9.4. The prevalence of women screening positive for BDD was 2.1% (95% CI 1.7–2.7) in the population-based sample of women and 4.9% (95% CI 3.2–7.4) in the dermatology patients’ sample. The positive predictive value of the BDDQ (71%) gave an estimated BDD prevalence of 1.5% (95% CI 1.1–2.0) in the female Swedish population. Women screening positive for BDD had signidicantly more symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those screening negative for BDD in both samples. In the dermatology patients, quality of life was severely impaired in patients with positive BDD screening. The overarching concept found in Study IV was that patients with BDD felt imprisoned and were struggling to become free and to no longer feel abnormal. The participants had encountered difdiculties in accessing health care and had disappointing experiences of the health care system.ConclusionThe findings of this thesis indicate that BDD is a relatively common disorder in the Swedish female population, and that it is more prevalent in dermatology patients. BDD patients struggle to be free from a feeling of imprisonment, and in this struggle they encounter difficulties in accessing health care. Therefore, it is important to increase awareness and recognition of BDD among health care professionals to ensure that patients with BDD receive the appropriate care.
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