Dictionary

A

Avoidance Behavior
Avoidance of unpleasant situations so as to prevent anxiety; a defense mechanism.

B

Behavioral Therapy
A type of therapy used to correct problematic behaviors that a patient recognizes and expresses a desire to change.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
A serious psychological disorder involving a preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s physical appearance. Please see our BDD At A Glance page for more information.

BDD Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (BDD-YBOCS)
A non-diagnostic tool used to measure the severity and nature of OCD symptoms; adapted for evaluation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

C

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A type of therapy that emphasizes the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Compulsion
Repetitious behaviors, thoughts, or rituals that occur in an attempt to reduce anxiety.

D

Dermatillomania
Medical term used to describe skin-picking disorders; also known as compulsive skin picking.

E

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
A type of behavioral therapy used to stop compulsive behaviors caused in response to anxiety-inducing situations. With the aid of a therapist, participants are purposefully exposed to anxiety-inducing situations with the intent of achieving habituation (see below).

H

Habituation
The gradual deterioration of a response that normally follows repetitious exposure to a specific stimulus. During therapy, habituation occurs when a participant builds a tolerance to an anxiety-inducing situation.

Hierarchy
A list of situations, tasks, or triggers graded and ranked by anxiety level. A hierarchy list is primarily used during exposure therapy for the purpose of producing habituation.

Hope
A confident feeling or desire that a goal can be accomplished or that events and circumstances will turn out for the best. The opposite of hope is despair, otherwise known as hopelessness.

M

Mental Compulsion
An obsessive and repetitive thought, phrase, or conversation aimed at alleviating anxiety; also known as a mental ritual.

Mindfulness
Concentrated attention to experiences happening in the present; also known as mindful awareness.

O

Obsessions
Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are a source of anxiety or distress. Individuals with BDD may experience obsessions associated with perceived flaws in specific body parts. In an effort to alleviate obsessions, BDD sufferers may perform unhealthy behaviors (compulsions) to ‘fix’ their supposed flaws.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A type of anxiety disorder that produces persistent and intrusive thoughts, feelings, and obsessions that compel sufferers to act on compulsions in an attempt to reduce anxiety.

P

Perfectionism
A personality trait distinguished by an impractical desire to perform any task in a flawless way. Perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders.

R

Reassurance Seeking
A compulsion wherein an individual with BDD repeatedly questions others about the status of his or her appearance in an attempt to obtain self-assurance.

Recluse
An individual who seeks or prefers seclusion or isolation; highly common among BDD sufferers who may separate themselves from society to avoid feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, or paranoia.

Referential Thinking
The belief that neutral, ordinary, and everyday occurrences contain personal meaning.

Ritual
A repetitive behavior or thought used in an attempt to reduce anxiety; also known as a compulsion.

S

Schema
A specific knowledge structure or cognitive representation of the self. Many individuals with BDD have what mental health professionals describe as a negative schema, or negative representation of the self (poor self-image).

Self-Directed Exposure and Response Prevention (Self-Directed ERP)
A type of behavioral therapy during which a participant is purposefully exposed to anxiety-inducing situations without the aid of a therapist in an effort to stop compulsive behaviors until anxiety subsides.

T

Trichotillomania
An impulse control disorder characterized by an intense urge to pull out one’s own hair, frequently resulting in noticeable hair loss.

Trigger
This can be any memory, thought, behavior, or situation that sets off anxiety.

V

Visual Processing
The steps the human brain takes to process sight. Current research suggests that BDD may be associated with a deficit in visual processing, causing a distorted view of one’s own appearance.