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Body Dysmorphic Disorder: The Link Between Mental Health and Cosmetic Surgery

December 3, 2020

If you’ve ever contemplated a sharper nose, fuller lips or exquisitely chiselled cheekbones, it’s likely you’ve considered cosmetic surgery. But if research is to be believed, your need for augmented features may be rooted in more than just self-professed ‘poor genetics’.

The mirror can be a tricky little vice – trapping you into a make-believe perception that you’re just not good enough. That your skin is too blemished, your cheeks are too chubby or that your nose is too wide. But what you see is often not what others see you for, and you’ll find that much of the time, your ‘physical shortcomings’ are mostly all in your head.

What the Research Says

Research suggests that almost 10% of plastic surgery patients are victims of a mental health disorder called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which magnifies physical imperfections and distorts self-perception. However, only half of all BDD-affected candidates of cosmetic surgery are diagnosed with the condition despite exhibiting all the classic signs.

Considered a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), BDD manifests as an exaggerated fixation over one’s physical features – even those minuscule enough not to warrant any attention. BDD patients are often driven to drastic ends to augment their physical profile. Up to 75% seek advice from plastic surgeons and up to 60% follow through with surgery.

The Truth About BDD Patients

One of the hallmarks of BDD is the unwillingness of patients to be outed. BDD patients are typically always on the edge over the possibility of being viewed as obsessive, fearing plastic surgeons will see through their guise and deny them treatment. In most cutting-edge plastic surgery practices, screening for BDD is a standard protocol to filter worthy candidates from those with a mental disorder. If you are considering surgery, a unit that doesn’t screen you for BDD is a red flag that should have you reconsidering your options. After all, a basic BDD profiling system can be a good reflection of other attributes at your chosen practice.

If you know somebody that demonstrates the classic signs of BDD, it’s a good idea to get help for them. Guiding them to a psychiatrist is a golden first step that can address the problem and help transform their self-perception. It’s often hard to relate to someone with BDD, especially when they’re unwittingly evaluating their physical attributes under a perennial magnifying lens. However, by giving them the help they need, you can restore their sense of self-worth and help them recognize their true self.

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