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A Comparison Study of Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59:568-575

Background: Body dysmorphic disorder, a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance, is classified as a somatoform disorder, but has been hypothesized to be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. A reflection of this hypothesis, body dysmorphic disorder is included in the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale symptom checklist, and its transfer to the anxiety disorders' section was considered for DSM-IV. However, the similarities and differences between body dysmorphic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder have received little investigation.

Method: We compared patients with DSM-IV body dysmorphic disorder (N=53), obsessive- compulsive disorder (N=53), or both disorders (N=33) in terms of demographic features, clinical features, comorbidity, and family history. We also assessed the rate of body dysmorphic disorder among 62 of these subjects initially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Results: 14.5% (9 of 62) of subjects initially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder had comorbid body dysmorphic disorder. The 2 disorders did not differ significantly in terms of sex ratio; most other demographic, course, and impairment variables; illness severity; or lifetime frequency of most associated disorders in probands or first-degree relatives. However, subjects with body dysmorphic disorder were less likely to be married and more likely to have had suicidal ideation or made a suicide attempt because of their disorder. They also had an earlier onset of major depression and higher lifetime rates of major depression, social phobia, and psychotic disorder diagnoses, as well as higher rates of substance use disorders in first-degree relatives.

Conclusion: Body dysmorphic disorder appears to be relatively common among patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the 2 disorders have many similarities, they also have some differences and should be differentiated in clinical and research settings.