Treatment and Cure:
Two Very Different Things
First lets understand the difference between 'treatment' and 'cure'. From Dictionary.com:
The application of medicines, surgery, psychotherapy, etc, to a patient or to a disease or symptom
Successful remedial treatment; restoration to health
So treatment means trying to do something about it.
Cure means the problem is gone.
This page is about both.
As you research how to overcome dysmorphophobia here and elsewhere just keep in mind that not all treatments are cures and with phobias very few treatments offered are an effective cure.
If you suspect that you have a phobia, start by talking with your doctor who can recommend a therapist. You'll likely be treated with exposure therapy for your phobia, although your therapist may also recommend additional treatments.
Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It involves putting yourself into increasingly stressful scenarios involving your particular phobia and overcoming your fear with new learning. The process usually has five steps:
Evaluation. You describe your fear to your therapist and recall anything in your past that may have contributed to it.
Feedback. Your therapist offers an evaluation of your phobia and proposes a treatment plan.
Develop fear hierarchy. You and your therapist create a list of scenarios involving your fear, each more intense than the last.
Exposure. You begin exposing yourself to the items on the list, starting with the least frightening situation. You start to realize that panic lessens within a few minutes of encountering your fear.
Building. As you become comfortable at each stage, you move on to increasingly difficult situations.
The good news is that exposure therapy is eventually successful in many people with phobias, but it means finding a therapist who can be trusted to lead a dysmorphophobe through some extremely difficult situations. Using additional cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques can help. For example, a therapist can help a client realize that their thoughts about deformity are distorted and teach them to think more realistically. He or she may also teach deep breathing or relaxation exercises to help reduce the fear.
Why We Don't Like Exposure Therapy
- Going through fearful situation after fearful situation is cruel and unnecessary, we believe
- It risks making things worse – your mind thinks deformity = fear, why give it a lot more evidence to support that mistake?
Self-help really means do-it-yourself and could be anything from choosing a home study program to extreme exposure therapy. There's no single self-help solution – but there is a philosphy we think is helpful: taking resposibility for your own cure, whatever method you choose.
Why We Offer Self Help
Whatever anybody says the truth is that you are the only person who can cure your dysmorphophobia. Any cure – that is any solution that eliminates the problem, rather than just masking it or making it better, by definition involves breaking the mental ties between deformity and your flight-or-fight responses.
Vanquish Fear & Anxiety for Dysmorphophobia is very effective at guiding you through a system of surprisingly enjoyable, yet powerful processes for breaking those mental ties.
If self-help techniques haven't worked, talk to your GP. You may need professional help from a psychiatrist (a doctor who specializes in mental health conditions) or other therapist. For many people, the best treatment for phobias is behavioral therapy.
There's different kinds of talk and of course the effectiveness of any therapy is critically dependent on who you are working with.
Your GP may refer you to a psychiatrist (another doctor who specializes in mental health conditions).
Certainly most psychiatrists are considered qualified to work with dysmorphophobia and some specialize in treating phobias. Generally though the process is slow and often the results are poor, because as dedicated and skilled as most psychiatrists are, their training does not include the most effective methods for dealing with serious fears.
Why We Offer A Kind of Talk Therapy
Our practice consists of a small team focussed completely on dealing with serious fears and phobias. The processes on the Vanquish Fear & Anxiety program are extremely effective. In fact in the program CTRN President Seymour Segnit is taking you through several of the most powerful and effective processes used by our team when working with our VIP clients.
Some clients want and need direct one-on-one help and guidance – that's The VIP Dysmorphophobia Program.
VIP is ideal for dysmorphophobic individuals who:
- Have a very severe case of dysmorphophobia
- Need to overcome the problem urgently
- Work better one-on-one than by themselves
Behavioral therapy involves one-to-one sessions with a therapist trained in treating phobias. The principle of this approach involves exposure and a gradual desensitization to dysmorphophobia. During the sessions, you learn to tolerate the anxiety triggered by exposure with the help of relaxation techniques.
The amount of exposure is gradually increased during your sessions. For example, the early sessions might involve only imagining or looking at photographs of deformity. (We won't go any further because to do so would risk inducing the problem.)
Your therapist might ask you to work on your thoughts about what's going on. For example, when the anxiety associated with phobia begins, and you feel dizzy, you may automatically become alarmed and think you are in danger. Your therapist helps you to replace this with a more realistic thought such as "It's just dizziness and I'm going to be OK".
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
For some people cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an option. This involves exercises to alter the inappropriate patterns of thinking you have developed and the behavior that stems from them.
According to a pamphlet from the American Psychiatric Association here's what you can expect from a qualified therapist - if you "carefully follow the outlined treatment plan".
• Noticeable improvement in 10 to 20 weeks.
• A tremendous improvement within one year.
Why We Don't Like Behavioral Therapies
Its up there in the first line: 'gradual desensitization'. We believe that being sensitive is pretty important, and that anyway the premise of desensitization is wrong. The problem is not the 'sensing' it is the patterns of thought that are triggered after the sensing of the deformity! And why learn to 'tolerate the anxiety' when you can simply be rid of it altogether?
Changing those thought patterns – the self-talk, the movies-in-the-mind etc – is the key to getting rid of dysmorphophobia. And when you are free of all those unwanted emotions, you will actually be more sensitive, not less.
We also think that a noticeable improvement in 10-20 weeks and tremendous improvement within a year is very slow going, when modern techniques can eliminate almost any phobia within days, sometimes even less.
Medicines are increasingly used to treat even mild cases. Any doctor can prescribe a range of medicines and drug options for fear of deformity (follow that link for our dedicated page).
Why We Don't Like Drugs & Medication
It seems so easy to pop a pill, but you can only ever mask the symptoms and get temporary relief this way.
Why risk the side effects for a temporary mask, when a fast and permanent cure is available?
The Bottom Line
There's plenty of therapies out there, but few cures.
Remember a dysmorphophobia cure means eliminating dysmorphophobia so it now feels as if it was never there.
Whatever you do, choose wisely.
Or learn more about Dysmorphophobia: