Cosmetic Procedures and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Cosmetic Procedures and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Most of us have one or two insecurities, about how we look, and there are often some aspects of our appearance that we might secretly wish we could change. However, for individuals with body dysmorphic disorder, these issues become an obsession and a constant focus of concern to the point that going under the surgical knife over and over again to fix a slight imperfection can become a harmful routine. Because people with body dysmorphic disorder “see” themselves as having a cosmetic problem, it’s not surprising they often seek a cosmetic “solution.”

The highest rates of body dysmorphic disorder are found among those consult plastic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists, and cosmetic dentists for cosmetic services. One study, from the University of Pennsylvania, found up to 70% of people with body dysmorphic disorder had sought cosmetic procedures, and half had received such interventions. An individual with body dysmorphic disorder may have an obsession with a slight bump on their nose and as a result will seek cosmetic surgery in order to remove this imperfection only to be dissatisfied time and time again, even if objectively the result is excellent, and, as a result will, seek more procedures to change the shape and size of their nose. Cosmetic surgery for an imperfection is not necessarily a fix for individuals with body dysmorphic disorder, as these procedures will become a routine, and can even develop into an obsession.

    Do you find yourself going under the knife time and time again only to be dissatisfied with the results?

    Are you constantly making appointments for cosmetic surgery procedures?

    Do you spend a significant amount of your income trying to fix your physical appearance?

    Has a friend or family member mentioned that you are focusing too much on cosmetic procedures?

    Has a plastic surgeon told you that you should not undergo a procedure because of an underlying mental health disorder?

    Have you been turned away from a plastic surgeon, for any reason?

Studies have revealed that more than 12 billion dollars were spent on surgical and nonsurgical procedures in 2013, indicating a 12 percent overall increase in cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. Tummy tucks, forehead lifts, breast lifts, facelifts, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and rhinoplasty are common plastic surgery procedures that are performed on a daily basis in the United States to help someone look more beautiful or enhance their self-esteem. Cosmetic surgery has been around for hundreds of years, and over time the link between beauty anti-aging and a thin appearance has been gaining popularity among men and women alike. However, this popular trend has resulted in a low self-esteem in relations to body image and a false sense of a beautiful reality.

The relationship between plastic surgery and self-esteem

Creating a false sense of beauty has potentially lead to many self-esteem issues which have been linked to body dysmorphic disorder. Unfortunately, our society is saturated with images in the media and on the internet that projects an unrealistic expectation of what the female and male body “should” look like. The average size of the idealized woman, which are commonly portrayed in photo-shopped images, in magazines and other media outlets is 13-19 percent below the healthy weight of an average sized woman. Striving to be thinner, prettier and younger can result in negative feelings of depression, helplessness, and self-devaluation. The increase in digital altering that is available to construct unrealistic images seen in the media and advertisements has potentially lead to a rise in body dissatisfaction increasing plastic surgery procedures.

Cosmetic surgery and body dysmorphic disorder from a physician’s perspective

Many plastic surgeons and medical physicians believe that the majority of individuals with BDD should avoid cosmetic surgery altogether, as these procedures do not solve the underlying problem. While a small number of individuals may see improvements in their physical appearance, many plastic surgeons believe that a BDD diagnosis is a contraindication to surgery and that individuals who receive cosmetic procedures often feel dismayed because their high expectations post-surgery have not been met, leading to worsening anxiety, fear, and body dissatisfaction. Many plastic surgeons screen individuals for body dysmorphic disorder and underlying psychological disorders however this is not a requirement and is therefore up to the discretion of the surgeon.