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CHA team members also work with individuals who are obsessed about their appearance, unhealthily so. Team psychologists work with patients who may have psychiatric disorders such as anorexia or bulimia -- eating disorders caused by an intense preoccupation with body weight. They also work with individuals with a condition called body dysmorphic disorder -- an obsession with an imagined or slight appearance defect that leads to significant preoccupation in daily functioning.

These disorders can cause severe distress to the people they affect and to their families, as well as permanent physical damage, says Dr. Sarwer. In extreme cases, they can cause death, most often by suicide. “If you think you or someone you know might have an unhealthy preoccupation with appearance, please ask your doctor for help or referral to a mental health professional with experience in this area.”

Center for Human Appearance psychologists are available to diagnose and treat body dysmorphic disorder. Other University of Pennsylvania specialists can help with eating disorders.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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