What is this project all about?
Having a bad hair day or wondering about your body weight is
a common thing we all experience. Luckily, those appearance
concerns do not last too long for most, and are rarely very
However, for individuals suffering from body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders, preoccupation with their appearance often becomes excessive and burdensome. They often report time-consuming rituals (such as mirror checking), avoidance of many situations, high levels of distress and even suicidal thoughts. However, these disorders are often left underdiagnosed and untreated. This is due to deficiencies in the infrastructure of psychotherapeutic and psychiatric services and important treatment barriers. For instance, many indivduals fear to be judged negatively when reporting their appearance concerns, or have to wait several months to receive treatment. This is problematic since body image problems could already be treated effectively even when in a less severe state.
We developed a new training: SWAP, which can be used online before, during and after treatment. It relies on the fact that individuals with high body dissatisfaction misinterpret ambiguous situations, such as other people looking at them, in a negative fashion. SWAP helps these individuals in retraining these distorted interpretations.
Each session of SWAP can be completed within just 15 minutes. It can be used online at any time during the day, and is thus very convenient to use. All actions on the SWAP program are potentially therapist-guided.
Programs working just like SWAP have demonstrated promising results in the reduction of symptoms and change in thinking styles for other disorders, such as social phobia. We would like to investigate if SWAP shows similiar results for body image problems and related disoders.
What is the project goal and who is the project for?
We aim to investigate whether SWAP is effective for individuals with body dysmorphic disorder as well as those with elevated body dissatisfaction. In particular, we would like to test its effects on symptoms, thinking styles and quality of life both in the short and in the long run.
Thanks to an open conceptualization of the online platform, SWAP can prospectively be used for other target groups.
The BDD outpatient center of the University of Muenster as well as online recruitment will be helpful to recruit participants for the SWAP project.
Why would you support this project?
This project is highly relevant both in practice and in research. Currently, between 2 and 3 million people in Germany are suffering from body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders. These disorders are linked to an increased mortality and important suicidal risk (e.g., about 75% of patients with body dysmorphic disorder report suicidal thoughts or plans, and more than 20% have at least once tried to end their lives).
Individuals with these disorders or higher levels of body
dissatisfaction encounter many problems when seeking help.
(1) Lighter symptoms could already be reduced with online trainings, without outpatient or inpatient care.
(2) When consulting mental health care, individuals have to wait several months in Germany before receiving their first session.
(3) Patients may find it very challenging to transfer the results of a 50-minute therapy session into their daily lives.
(4) After therapy has ended, we still lack efficient strategies to maintain therapeutic effects or boost them.
SWAP could contribute to the solution of these problems. It is cost-efficient, flexible and easy to use. SWAP can be used as an aid when people wait for therapy, during certain stages of therapy, and as a booster or reminder strategy after therapy has ended.
We want to make SWAP efficient, safe, accessible and free to use to all individuals in need. This can only be done with your financial support.
Important advice: SWAP will not be conceptualized to replace therapy or work as a stand-alone treatment. It is a SUPPORTIVE online tool during all stages before, during and after therapy, and thus interesting for therapists as well.
If you would like to support a project that might give people with body image problems a new tool to manage their symptoms and improve their lives, SWAP may be exactly that. We will be glad about each and every supporter.
How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded?
What most online studies need, especially when handling
sensitive data such as patient information, is professionality and
security. To achieve this, our website needs genuine coding and a
nice "front end", i.e. web design, to make it both appealing and
easy to use for participants.
Financial support allows us to hire a professional programmer for this job. In sum, we would need 7400 Euro as a programming investment.
DISCLAIMER: In case of "over-funding", additional financial support will be entirely attributed to participant decompensation within the SWAP studies.
Who are the people behind the project?
Fanny Dietel, MSc., is a PhD student and psychotherapist in
training (CBT) at the University of Muenster, Germany. In her PhD
thesis (Supervisors: Ulrike Buhlmann, PhD, University of Muenster;
Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, Harvard Medical School), she investigates the
role of distorted interpretation in body dysmorphic disorder. She
has already conducted two studies which indicate that online
trainings such as SWAP could be beneficial for patients with body
image problems. The third study now aims to test if this is really
Supporting SWAP does not only mean supporting her PhD thesis, but also 10 other BSc and MSc theses as well as research internships associated with this project. A large-scale online project such as SWAP allows students to learn and may spark their interest for psychological research. Therefore, SWAP is not only relevant in research, but also in teaching and clinical practice.