Facial Discrimination in Body Dysmorphic, Obsessive-Compulsive and Social Anxiety Disorders

Claudia Hübner, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Wiebke Wiesendahl, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Maria Kleinstäuber, Philipps-University Marburg
Ulrich Stangier, University of Frankfurt
Norbert Kathmann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Ulrike Buhlmann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is characterized by preoccupation with perceived flaws in one's own appearance. Several risk factors such as aesthetic perceptual sensitivity have been proposed to explain BDD's unique symptomatology. Although research on facial discrimination is limited so far, the few existing studies have produced mixed results. Thus, the purpose of this study was to further examine facial discrimination in BDD. We administered a facial discrimination paradigm, which allows to assess the ability to identify slight to strong facial changes (e.g., hair loss, acne) when presented with an original (unmodified) facial image, relative to a changed (modified) facial image. The experiment was administered in individuals with BDD, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and mentally healthy controls (32 per group, respectively). Overall, groups did not differ with respect to their ability to correctly identify facial aberrations when presented with other people's faces. Our findings do not support the hypothesis of enhanced general aesthetic perceptual sensitivity in individuals with (vs. without) BDD.