Dysmorphophobia – Fear of Deformity
The fear of Deformity may be the result of traumatic experiences in earlier life, particularly during the first 10 years of a life when negative experiences can be perceived as being much more significant than those encountered in later, adult life.
The unique meanings that people attribute to early life experiences depends on a whole range of psychological, socio-economic and cultural beliefs each influencing the types of coping strategies that people end up using.
There is no scientific evidence that Dysmorphophobia is the result of any kind of biological fault or chemical imbalance in spite of the traction that these biomedical models of mental illness are given in the media.
On the contrary, Dysmorphophobia is much more likely to be the result of the sufferers subjective evaluation (meaning-making) of what happened to them and is therefore a psychosocial phenomenon.
Dysmorphophobia Symptoms & Behaviours
The symptoms of Dysmorphophobia are very similar to other specific phobias and often include the following feelings or behaviours:
- Panic attacks.
- Avoidance of situations related to Deformity.
- Safety behaviours designed to minimise exposure to the phobic object or situation.
- Low self esteem.
Within the Power Threat Meaning Framework, the symptoms of Dysmorphophobia may be better thought of as threat responses and coping strategies that sufferers adopt in order to cope with the immediate problem.
Unfortunately, when faced with threats such as the Fear of Deformity, not everybody adopts threat responses that are ‘adaptive’ to the situation and may frequently choose approaches that end up being more harmful to mental and physical health in the longer term.
Despite this obvious paradox, it is important to recognise that nobody deliberately chooses ‘maladaptive’ coping mechanisms that result in more harm than good.
The reason for this is that at some level, the choice of threat response made complete sense (was coherent) at the time the threat was originally experienced which may have been in childhood at a time when less personal resources were available.
Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms in Dysmorphophobia
A common problem that people experiencing Dysmorphophobia symptoms have is that their threat responses or coping strategies may no longer be relevant to the current context or time in which they live.
Unfortunately, human beings have a built-in tendency to repeat behaviours that are supposed to provide benefits without questioning whether or not they still make sense.
We call these behaviours ‘habits’ and habitual behaviours require very little conscious activation as they are generally performed ‘automatically’ at a sub-conscious level.
Habitual coping strategies and threat responses that are no longer coherent in the current context are known as post coherent adaptations and are, in most cases, the principal cause of the emotional distress being experienced at the present time.
PTMF Psychotherapy for Dysmorphophobia
We offer a range of psychotherapy options for Dysmorphophobia all of which adopt a psychosocial perspective.
What this means is that we will help you to understand and solve your Fear of Deformity from the point of view of what has happened to you and NOT what is wrong with you.
This approach is known as psychosocial therapy and here at Lee Psychology we help our clients to achieve a more meaningful and lasting recovery by using the British Psychological Society’s Power Threat Meaning Framework which rejects the idea that emotional distress is an illness.
This new approach stands in stark contrast to the biomedical models of mental illness used widely throughout the psychiatric and medical communities despite the almost total absence of any underlying scientific evidence in support of their position.
The psychosocial approaches to Dysmorphophobia, on the other hand, are built upon a significant base of clinical and empirical evidence established over the last 20 years.
The CORE CBT Programme for Dysmorphophobia
The CORE CBT Programme was devised and written by Paul in 2020 and combines all the best elements of CBT with additional knowledge drawn from research in Personal Construct Theory, Attribution Theory, Self-Determination Theory and Social Constructivism.
It is particularly well-suited to anxiety related problems such as Dysmorphophobia due to the prevalence of cognitive ideation in the creation of phobic responses.
It is a 10 module course normally taken over a 10 week period with weekly hour long counselling sessions (either face-to-face or using Zoom), but can also be followed as a ‘teach yourself’ course for those with more manageable levels of anxiety.
Want To Find Out More?
If you’d like to find out more about overcoming or recovering from Dysmorphophobia or the Fear of Deformity then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.
During this consultation we will discuss your particular problems and the potential solutions in a safe and confidential environment without you having to commit to any counselling programmes or sessions going forward.
It is our view that not only do you need to decide whether the Lee Psychology approach suits who you are and what you have been through, but also whether or not you feel you will be able to work effectively with us as individuals.