Addressing appearance-related distress across clinical conditions.
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Evidence is accumulating about the nature and prevalence of appearance-related distress across a variety of clinical populations. Health professionals working with specific patient groups are often aware of these difficulties and their detrimental effect on quality of life and wellbeing. However, many health professionals lack knowledge and skills on how to support patients, either within the team or via referral to relevant service providers who have expertise in managing appearance-related distress. This is mainly owing to a lack of information about screening, assessment measures and available interventions. The aim of this article is to consider how health professionals can support patients who experience distress as a result of living with a long-term physical health condition that has altered their appearance. This article summarises the challenges for patients and health professionals surrounding body image, altered appearance and associated distress. Gaps in relation to screening measures, differing types of intervention, appearance-related skills training for healthcare teams, care pathways and access to services are identified. A summary of the limited range of interventions currently available has been mapped onto a stepped model of care, ranging from self-help to intensive therapies. Finally, readers are pointed to helpful resources for understanding, identifying, addressing and signposting patients with appearance-related distress.
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