Evaluating a Cognitive-Behavioral Model of Pathological Mirror Gazing: Implications for the Maintenance of Anxiety and Appearance Dissatisfaction in Body Dysmorphic Disorder Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mahaffey, Brittain Lynn
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a condition in which an individual is excessively preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a slight physical anomaly. Cognitive behavioral models of BDD posit that excessive mirror gazing plays a key role in the maintenance of BDD. Research suggests that mirror gazing is a safety behavior which elicits heightened self-focused attention and cognitive comparisons to unrealistic beauty ideals. These factors are thought to provoke anxiety and appearance distress. To date, however, these mechanisms have not been experimentally tested and there has been no research examining the relationship between mirror gazing and anxiety. Therefore, the aims of the present study were twofold: one to examine whether mirror gazing can provoke subjective anxiety, and two to experimentally test the mechanisms thought to explain the relationship between mirror gazing and anxiety. Seventy-nine undergraduate females were randomized into four conditions: (1) simple attention to appearance, (2) simple mirror gazing, (3) mirror gazing + self focused attention, and (4) mirror gazing + self-focused attention + comparisons to beauty ideals. Following from Veale's (2004) model, we predicted that conditions 2-4 would result in increased anxiety and appearance distress, with condition 4 evoking the greatest distress and anxiety over the course of the task. A multilevel modeling (MLM) approach was employed for the purposes of data analysis. Results suggest that mirror gazing alone is not sufficient to provoke increased appearance dissatisfaction and that targeted negative SFA and beauty related cognitive distortions play a greater role in eliciting dissatisfaction than previously thought. Further, they suggest that these types of tasks do not elicit subjective anxiety in healthy individuals. Additional research is needed to evaluate the relationship between mirror gazing behaviors and subjective anxiety in samples with BDD and to test the efficacy of interventions targeting SFA and beauty related cognitive distortions.
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  • Abramowitz, Jonathan
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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