People who live with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are extremely dissatisfied with their appearance and will sometimes go to great lengths to change it. The condition is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with minor or imagined flaws. Although these flaws may not be noticeable to other people, they are intensely distressing to the affected individual. A person with BDD may spend hours every day worrying about or trying to cover up parts of their appearance.

In many cases, people with BDD are focused on body shape or size and may try various methods to lose weight. On the extreme end, those with BDD may use illicit substances, including amphetamines, as a weight-loss strategy.

Illicit drug use is fairly common in individuals with BDD, with estimates that 15.3% of those with BDD have used illicit drugs for weight loss. Although amphetamines make up a fairly small portion of this drug use, the side effects of these substances and impact on one’s health, can be serious and long-lasting.

Do Amphetamines Cause Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

The factors that may cause or increase a person’s risk of developing mental health conditions are complex and are often a combination of environmental and genetic influences. The same is true for body dysmorphic disorder; a mixture of family factors and life experiences can influence whether or not someone develops the condition.

Common BDD risk factors can include:

  • Trauma
  • Family history or having a close relative with the condition
  • Experiences with bullying
  • Anxiety
  • Shame

BDD is associated with an increased risk for substance abuse. Despite this, it is unlikely that amphetamines directly cause body dysmorphic disorder. Although they may contribute to it, or make symptoms worse, BDD is not likely caused by any single factor.

Do Amphetamines Affect Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms?

As stimulants, amphetamines increase the rate of communication between the body and brain. Medically, amphetamines can be used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. While these medications may provide many benefits for people who have a prescription, the misuse or abuse of amphetamines can have serious health risks.

The side effects of amphetamines can range from increased heart rate, heightened energy, and reduced appetite. Some individuals with body dysmorphic disorder use amphetamines for their appetite-suppressing effects and related weight-loss benefits.

While using amphetamines might reduce appetite and weight, these medications also have side effects that could make body dysmorphic disorder worse. Using the drug might worsen feelings of anxiety, which can contribute to BDD symptoms. Coming down from amphetamines can also cause feelings of paranoia, confusion, and irritability. These side effects may make appearance-related obsessions or preoccupations worse and lead to continued amphetamine abuse.

Treatment Options for Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Co-Occurring Amphetamine Addiction

It’s important that treatment for body dysmorphic disorder addresses the underlying thoughts and behaviors related to the condition. Treatment providers should understand the exaggerated nature of the individual’s physical flaws, and work to help them develop coping strategies to manage their distorted self-concept.

If a person is also experiencing an amphetamine addiction, treatment providers need to determine if withdrawal management is necessary. As people often underestimate the negative side-effects of substance use, it is important to highlight the risks of worsening mental and physical health through continued substance use.

Treatments for co-occurring BDD and amphetamine abuse can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of both conditions. Options for treatments might include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy

These options can be used in isolation or combination with one another.

Key Points: Amphetamines and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  • Body dysmorphic disorder includes extreme dissatisfaction or preoccupation with appearance, and this often includes body size or weight
  • Some individuals with BDD may use stimulants, such as amphetamines, to suppress appetite and facilitate weight loss
  • The causes of BDD are complex and while amphetamine use might worsen BDD, it is unlikely that amphetamines cause the condition
  • Amphetamine use and withdrawal can increase feelings of anxiety or paranoia that might worsen BDD symptoms
  • Treatment for BDD and co-occurring amphetamine abuse might include a combination of antidepressant medication and therapy

Body dysmorphic disorder and amphetamine abuse or addiction are extremely distressing and can be dangerous, both independently and together. Seeking treatment for these conditions can help improve mental health, physical health, and quality of life.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from body dysmorphic disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village to discuss treatment options today. Our rehab facilities serve communities from Florida to Washington, specializing in a range of addiction recovery services.