The quest for perfection in our instant gratification society often focuses on physical beauty and cosmetic surgical procedures to cure any perceived defects. From liposuction to breast enhancement to facelifts and nose jobs, most plastic surgeons are all to eager to please and put you under the knife. But a new study warns that people requesting one specific type of plastic surgery have a high likelihood of signs of body dysmorphic disorder, a chronic mental illness.
The specific procedure is rhinoplasty, otherwise known as a nose job. A new Belgium study, published in the August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, found that 33 percent of people they interviewed who were seeking a nose job were found to have symptoms of BDD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a chronic mental illness where a person intensely obsesses over appearance and body image, often for hours a day. They may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to "fix" the perceived flaws, but are never satisfied. Body dysmorphic disorder is also known as dysmorphophobia, the fear of having a deformity.
The Belgium team surveyed 233 rhinoplasty patients over a 16-month time period. One-third of those surveyed had moderate to severe symptoms of BDD. For those indicating they wanted the procedure solely to improve their looks, the number jumped to 43 percent. Comparatively, only 2 percent of those who were seeking the procedure for medical reasons exhibited signs of BDD.
Patients exhibiting more extreme signs had a lower quality of life, as well as trouble in relationships and low self-esteem. Interestingly, the researchers found the noses of these individuals to be within a normal in both and shape, with minor or no defects.
Patients who had previous nose jobs or mental illness showed more extreme signs of BDD, not surprisingly.
The researchers concluded that plastic surgeons should assess the motivations and mental health of their patients seeking aesthetic surgery, and be aware of signs of the disorder and any behavior that exhibits extreme preoccupation with appearance. Currently there are no guidelines for doctors to follow in assessing individuals or referring them for mental health care, should the need arise. The researchers hope that this study will start a dialog that will lead to such criteria.