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Negative priming for threatening vs. non-threatening information in body dysmorphic disorder

  • Sabine Wilhelm (a1) (a2), Ulrike Buhlmann (a1) (a2) and Richard J McNally (a3)



Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) suffer from unpleasant, repetitive thoughts about imagined defects in appearance which are difficult to control.


The purpose of this study was to test for deficits in cognitive inhibition in BDD.


To test for deficits in cognitive inhibition in BDD, we applied a negative priming paradigm. Specifically, we explored whether BDD patients exhibit greater deficits in cognitive inhibition when lexical targets are threatening than when they are non-threatening.


Surprisingly, BDD patients exhibited deficits in cognitive inhibition only for non-threatening but not for threatening information.


Although BDD patients often describe their negative thoughts about their appearance as distressing, they may experience them as valid and thus may not try to control them.


Corresponding author

Sabine Wilhelm PhD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Building 149, 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, Tel: (617) 724-6146; Fax: (617) 726-4078; E-mail:


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