Neurocognitive Function in Individuals With Sub-Clinical Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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Preoccupation with perceived flaws in physical appearance and body dysmorphic concerns are central symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a condition associated with substantial psychopathological burden, increased suicide risk, and functional disability. Initial research reveals that BDD is associated with deficient cognitive functions. Less is known about Subclinical Body Dysmorphic Disorder (SC- BDD) -a psychometrically defined clinical status that is more prevalent than BDD – particularly in terms of neuropsychological function. Moreover, to date no analogue BDD study using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery has been conducted in college students, a population associated with higher risk for BDD and body image concerns compared to the general population. To fill this gap in the literature, the present study aimed at assessing cognitive functions in a SC-BDD sample using a validated computerized neuropsychological battery among college students. Initially, a sample of 1394 students completed the Dysmorphic Concern Questionnaire (DCQ). Using a psychometrically valid methodology, a SC-BDD (n = 40) and control (n = 39) groups were selected based on scores in the upper and lower quartiles on the DCQ. The two groups completed a comprehensive computerized neuropsychological battery and clinical questionnaires. The SC-BDD sample presented with significantly elevated symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. However, no significant differences were found on any neuropsychological outcome measures or domain indexes. Effect sizes were small, some of which favored the SC-BDD group. Despite substantial anxiety and depression symptoms, entailing meaningful psychopathological burden, SC-BDD exhibited intact cognitive functioning. Given the prevalence, severity, and suicide risk associated with SC-BDD, these results are important because intact cognitive functioning may result in misidentification of students who require treatment. Given that years untreated is a negative prognostic indicator, it is important for academic institution to disseminate information to their students regarding body image concerns, and offer specific support in University counselling centers.