A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has shown that people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) progress better and are less likely to relapse when given long-term medication.  

BDD is generally managed by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tailored to BDD and with  serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) to relieve symptoms (eg, depression, anxiety, obsession/compulsion). 

Researchers from Rhode Island Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a first-of-its-kind study to confirm whether medication was effective in preventing a relapse of symptoms after medication was suspended. Studies in the past regarding medication efficacy were short-term. 

RELATED: Study Compares Efficacy of Two Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatments

They found that 81% of adults with BDD who took escitalopram (Lexapro) for 14 weeks experienced substantial improvement in BDD symptoms. Those who continued treatment for 6 more months found further improvement. Also, those who responded to escitalopram and continued taking it were less likely to experience worsening symptoms vs. those who were switched from escitalopram to placebo. 

Six months of additional treatment after an initial response to the medication led to beneficial outcomes in patients. Phase one (n=74) involved escitalopram treatment during the 14-week, acute period. Phase two (n=58), the relapse prevention efficacy phase, involved randomizing patients to double-blind continuation treatment with escitalopram or a switch to placebo. 

Findings from the study showed that continuing pharmacological treatment could substantially reduce the risk of relapse and could further improve symptoms. Continuing treatment “significantly delayed time to relapse compared to patients in the placebo group,” study authors reported. More studies are needed to assess whether CBT will lower the risk of relapse in BDD patients when effective medication therapy is discontinued.

For more information visit lifespan.org.