Cocaine can worsen the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

BDD is a mental health disorder where a person is overly-preoccupied with a slight defect or flaw in their physical appearance. This defect may be real or perceived.

BDD is not an eating disorder, it is a disorder of perception, but it can happen alongside an eating disorder. Areas of the body that someone with BDD may focus on are:

  • Breast size
  • Face  (e.g., acne, wrinkles, complexion, or nose appearance)
  • Genitalia
  • Hair appearance or thinness
  • Muscle size and tone
  • Skin and vein appearance

Cocaine and other drug use can be dangerous when combined with serious mental health disorders. Substance use or abuse can be a way for someone to either self-treat the symptoms or to help “correct” for the flaws they perceive in their body. Since BDD is a disease of perception, using substances to mask the symptoms will not treat or cure the disease. No matter how much someone changes their body with cocaine (like with weight loss), they will still perceive themselves as flawed. Cocaine use may even make this worse as it has negative impacts on the body.

Prevalence of Cocaine Abuse with BDD

A study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry looked at rates of substance use disorder (SUD) among people with BDD. This study examined the use of different types of drugs in a group of 176 people with BDD. It also looked at the magnitude of symptoms these people experienced: compulsive behavior, insight into one’s own disease, quality of life and social functioning.

This study found that about half had SUD at some point in their lives, and about a third had abused substances. The most commonly abused drug was alcohol. 9.1% percent admitted to a SUD with cocaine.

How does Cocaine Affect Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Since BDD is an obsessive-compulsive type disorder, cocaine use can worsen some of the symptoms. Cocaine can worsen anxiety, paranoia and cause emotional swings. It is appealing for people with BDD because it can suppress appetite and cause weight loss. Some other symptoms of cocaine use are:

Can Cocaine Cause Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

No, cocaine by itself cannot cause BDD. However, it can make someone who is predisposed to develop it more likely to experience symptoms. Cocaine can also worsen symptoms in someone with BDD and make the disorder harder to treat.

Treatment Options for Cocaine Abuse and Co-Occurring BDD

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the standard therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder and has a strong place in the treatment of cocaine abuse disorders. CBT is a kind of talk therapy that helps a person have more realistic goals and perception of the world.

Treatment can be outpatient or inpatient, but someone with both BDD and a cocaine SUD can benefit from intensive inpatient treatment. Some people may need selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to make their symptoms easier to treat. SSRIs are used for different types of depression and anxiety disorders and can be helpful for BDD.

Key Points: Cocaine and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Keep the following key points in mind when considering how cocaine can affect body dysmorphic disorder:

  • BDD is not an eating disorder
  • BDD is a disorder of obsessive-compulsive perception
  • Someone with BDD may focus on a certain body part like face, hair, muscles, genitals, or skin
  • Cocaine can worsen BDD and make it harder to treat
  • Cocaine does not cause BDD

If you or a loved one live with an addiction, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how individualized treatment programs can address addiction and any co-occurring disorders, like BDD. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Cocaine and Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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