Warped Point of View

Body dysmorphic disorder patients view things differently

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Some people don’t see themselves clearly. In fact, when they look at themselves in the mirror, the image may be distorted and reflect a totally inaccurate image. There are many people that are dissatisfied with the way they look, but people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) process images – including their own – differently.

The disorder causes them to focus on less important details such as tiny imperfections that distorts the whole view. Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles have found that people with BDD have less brain activity when processing the “big picture” in faces and objects.

"People with body dysmorphic disorder can’t process “the big picture.”"

BDD is a mental illness that is characterized by the misperception that one appears disfigured and ugly. Fuesner and colleagues found that people who suffer from BDD have less activity in the brain region that controls the processing of holistic images. They also found that 30 percent of people who suffer from BDD have eating disorders because of the distorted self-image.

This study included 14 BDD patients and 14 healthy people, who were asked to look at pictures of houses that were either detailed or not detailed . The researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) to measure the activity in the brain.

Patients with BDD showed abnormal brain activity patterns when looking at houses that were less detailed. Patients with more severe BDD showed even lower brain activity in those areas of the brain.

Researchers are unsure if the brain activity is the cause or effect of the disease. 

Further study is being done on patients who suffer from eating disorders, like anoerxia nervosa, to see if they process visual information similarly in hopes of developing treatments for people who have distorted visual imaging.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 31, 2011
Last Updated:
June 8, 2011