An internet based therapy may help people affected by a common anxiety disorder which could lead to hospitalisation, substance dependence and even suicide, a new study has claimed.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a common anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.
Researchers from Karolinska Institute and Linkoping University in Sweden and King's College London in UK set out to evaluate the effectiveness of a therapist guided internet based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD-NET) compared with online supportive therapy.
The study involved 94 adult patients with a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder who randomly received either BDD-NET or supportive therapy for 12 weeks.
None of the participants had any face-to-face contact with a therapist during treatment and both groups were followed for 3 months after the end of treatment.
BDD-NET resulted in significant improvements in symptom severity, depression, and quality of life compared with supportive therapy. These gains were maintained for at least three months after the end of treatment.
At that point, 56 per cent of those receiving BDD-NET were classed as responders (defined as a 30 per cent or more reduction in symptoms on a recognised scoring scale) compared with 13 per cent receiving supportive therapy.
As many as 39 per cent of those receiving BDD-NET no longer met diagnostic criteria for body dysmorphic disorder.
Participants in the supportive therapy group who crossed over to BDD-NET after six months also improved their symptom scores.
No serious adverse events were reported, and most participants were satisfied with BDD-NET, despite no face to face contact with a therapist, and deemed the treatment as highly acceptable.
"BDD-NET has the potential to increase access to evidence based psychiatric care for this mental disorder," researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal BMJ.

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