Category: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders

Symposium

Effects of Appearance-Related Safety Behaviors on Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms and Cognitions

Friday, November 17
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom K & L, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Body Dysmorphic Disorder | Risk / Vulnerability Factors | Cognitive Schemas / Beliefs
Presentation Type: Symposium

Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) report engaging in ‘safety behaviors’ (SBs) to reduce threat related to their appearance concerns. These behaviors include mirror checking, excessive grooming, camouflaging, and reassurance seeking. SBs are thought to maintain symptoms and may play a causal role in the development of the disorder, though this has received little empirical attention. The present study examined the extent to which appearance-related SBs contribute to the development and exacerbation of BDD symptoms, characteristic threat interpretations, and beliefs about the importance of appearance.


 Female undergraduates with subthreshold BDD symptoms (N=80) were randomly assigned to one week of: (1) increasing the frequency/duration of appearance-related SBs (SB+); (2) decreasing/fading out these behaviors (SB-); or (3) a control condition in which they were asked to increase their academic studying behaviors. BDD symptoms and cognitions were assessed at pre- and post- manipulation.


 Analyses were conducted controlling corresponding baseline variables. A significant effect of condition was observed when predicting post-manipulation BDD symptom severity (F=12.40, pη2=.25), beliefs about the importance of appearance (F=13.03, pη2=.26), threat interpretations of ambiguous appearance-related (F=5.20, pη2=.12) and social (F=4.96, pη2=.12) situations, and fear in response to an in vivo appearance-related stressor (F=3.41, pη2=.08). Specifically, the SB + group experienced greater increases on all five of these indices, relative to both the SB – (pspsps>.08). There were no effects of condition on threat interpretations of general-themed scenarios (p=.24).


 Findings suggest that engagement in appearance-related SBs may be instrumental in the development of disorder-specific symptoms, negative/threat interpretations of appearance and social information, and dysfunctional attitudes about bodily appearance. Theoretical and clinical applications of these findings will be discussed.

Berta Summers

Graduate Student
Florida State University

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Effects of Appearance-Related Safety Behaviors on Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms and Cognitions



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