Learn about what causes body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and how it can lead to Adderall abuse.

It is not uncommon for individuals to want to change certain parts of their appearance: to want curly hair rather than straight, or to wish for a few extra inches in height. However, some people may feel extreme dissatisfaction with their appearance and become preoccupied with small or imagined flaws — to the extent that it disrupts their ability to function.

These experiences are part of body dysmorphic disorder, a very distressing and debilitating disorder that results in a fixation on minor or imagined flaws in one’s appearance. BDD is thought to be related to other mental disorders, including major depressionobsessive-compulsive disorder and substance use disorders.

In some cases, people with BDD might abuse prescription medications, such as Adderall, to lose weight.

Article at a Glance:

People who have BDD have feelings of extreme body dissatisfaction and preoccupation with their physical appearance. People with BDD might go to extreme lengths to change perceived flaws about themselves, such as using prescription medication like Adderall to reduce appetite and lose weight. Some other key points related to Adderall abuse and body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Taking Adderall to lose weight is considered to be abuse, and is often done without a prescription.
  • Using Adderall might produce the desired effect of weight loss, but this type of abuse is associated with health risks and can even worsen BDD.
  • Treatment for co-occurring Adderall abuse and BDD can include cognitive behavioral therapy to address underlying beliefs and behaviors

Relationship Between Adderall and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Adderall is often prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The medication can help reduce problems with attention and concentration and is often prescribed for school- and college-aged students. Adderall can have many benefits for people with ADHD, but is often abused and used without a prescription. Some students who do not have a prescription may take Adderall to improve focus during times of academic stress or to try to improve their organizational skills.

A common side effect of Adderall is a suppressed appetite, which can lead to weight loss. Because of this appetite-suppressing effect, Adderall is sometimes abused for appetite suppression and weight loss.

Developing body dysmorphic disorder and using Adderall for weight loss can both happen at similar life-stages. Adderall is often prescribed to young people at a point when extreme body dissatisfaction often occurs.

Does Adderall Cause Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Even though Adderall and body dysmorphic disorder are related, it’s unlikely that Adderall directly causes the disorder. As a stimulant, Adderall might make symptoms of BDD worse, but it’s not the only cause.

Body dysmorphic disorder can be caused by a range of underlying factors like extreme body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem or preoccupation with one’s appearance. BDD can also be related to childhood trauma, having experienced teasing or even problems with visual processing. People who abuse Adderall for weight loss are often already be suffering from BDD and abuse Adderall as part of their disorder.

Does Adderall Affect Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Adderall can certainly affect BDD. Because Adderall can reduce appetite, it can assist a person who is preoccupied with their body or weight to lose weight. This type of abuse is an unhealthy coping strategy and can actually worsen their illness.

People who take Adderall to lose weight report more worries about body image and more disordered eating behaviors. Using Adderall to address one’s concerns about their appearance does not address the underlying problematic beliefs or behaviors. As a stimulant, Adderall can lead to feelings of agitation and anxiety, and these feelings can worsen insecurities or obsessions that are common with BDD.

Overall, using Adderall for weight loss can affect the prognosis of recovery from body dysmorphic disorder. Using medication that has not been prescribed can put people at risk for adverse health effects and might prevent them from seeking care to address underlying mental disorders.

Can BDD Lead to Adderall Abuse?

Body dysmorphic disorder is linked with many maladaptive beliefs about appearance as well as disordered behavior related to eating and weight. People who are extremely dissatisfied with and obsess about their appearance might look for many ways to alter how they look.

Abuse of Adderall can be a symptom of an eating disorder or extreme body concerns. Using Adderall can produce the desired response of weight loss and, after continued use, people with BDD may become dependent on it.

Given that people using Adderall might see the desired effect of weight loss, this can lead to continued abuse of prescription medications. Adderall abuse can carry its own health risks and may require specific treatment in combination with treatment for body dysmorphic disorder.

Treatment Options for Adderall Abuse and Comorbid BDD

There are many treatment options for BDD but the best strategy should be tailored to the individual and will depend on the severity of the illness. If Adderall abuse co-occurs with BDD, it is important that both disorders are considered and addressed appropriately within a treatment strategy.

First-line treatment options for BDD include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and withdrawal management — either on their own or in combination — depending on the severity of the disorder.

Treatments for co-occurring BDD and Adderall abuse must address the underlying beliefs of the disorders. These can include extreme body dissatisfaction or underestimating the negative side effects of Adderall.

If you or someone you care about who has body dysmorphic disorder is abusing Adderall, contact The Recovery Village today to discuss treatment options. Our facilities serve communities from Florida to Washington, specializing in a range of addiction recovery services.

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Editor – Gretchen Koebbe
Gretchen Koebbe is a writing and reading specialist based out of Detroit. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Sarah Dash, PHD
Dr. Sarah Dash is a postdoctoral research fellow based in Toronto. Sarah completed her PhD in Nutritional Psychiatry at the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in 2017. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.