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Traumatic Experiences in Individuals With Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Buhlmann, Ulrike PhD; Marques, Luana M. PhD; Wilhelm, Sabine PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: January 2012 - Volume 200 - Issue 1 - p 95–98
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31823f6775
Brief Reports

Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are excessively concerned about perceived defects in their appearance (e.g., blemishes on their skin). BDD is a severe mental disorder often associated with increased suicidality as well as significant social and occupational interference (e.g., J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66:717–725). Recently, investigators have begun to explore variables that might function as risk factors in the development of BDD, such as traumatic experiences (e.g., Child Abuse Negl 2006;30:1105–1115). As such, one of the goals of the current study was to examine the role of early-life sexual, physical, or emotional abuse in BDD. Specifically, the Traumatic Stress Institute Life Event Questionnaire (Treat Abuse Today 1992;2:9–11) was used to examine whether individuals with BDD (n = 18) self-reported having experienced more traumatic events than mentally healthy controls (n = 19). The BDD group reported more retrospective experiences of sexual and physical abuse in childhood or adolescence than did healthy controls. Surprisingly, there was no significant group difference in reports of emotional abuse in early life. This study provides preliminary evidence of the importance of examining abuse as a potential risk factor in the development of BDD.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Send reprint requests to Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Body Dysmorphic Disorder Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 185 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.