As an update to my blog on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), recent research has shown that this disorder could be the result of a visual processing error in the brain. This visual processing error can lead an individual to fixate on one area of their body, rather than seeing the entire self. In other words, they don’t see the big picture or the context of the aspect they are fixated on.
The research that has led to this possible explanation for BDD was conducted by a psychiatric called Jamie Feusner. He found that while looking at blurred photos of their own faces from inside an fMRI machine, those people with BDD showed less activity in the brain regions responsible for fitting small visual details into the larger feature with which it belongs. The same was found when the images were of houses as opposed to their own faces. Feusner concluded that:
“The brains of people with BDD don’t seem to process the holistic picture well.”
In other words:
“Their brains fail to provide a context for the visual details they’re focusing on.”
Since the same reduced neural responsiveness was found with images that have nothing to do with appearance, it could very well be that BDD is the result of a general visual deficit. The study does, however, need to be replicated to confirm results. In particular, it would be interesting to test whether these visual deficits contribute to the development of BDD or are the result of BDD.
These findings have important implications for the treatment of BDD, with the goal of treatment being, “to get BDD patients to say, ‘Hey, I may not be seeing myself accurately because of something that’s happening in my brain – not something that’s an actual reality'” (Feusner).
Some interesting findings that I hope will help progress treatment for BDD!