Several studies show that some people who repeatedly seek cosmetic surgery are afflicted with a mental disorder called body dysmorphic disorder. But undergoing a nip here, tuck there or a poke between the eyes does nothing to improve the mental condition of these people, according to a new study.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a
condition in which people become preoccupied with their looks to
the point of being obsessed over minor flaws or perceived
imperfections. They often become so addled by their obsession over
physical beauty they become dysfunctional in other aspects of their
lives. Typically, such people are heavy users of cosmetic surgery.
Some doctors are willing to abide by the demands of patients with
the disorder even though medical guidelines suggest that such
patients undergo psychological counseling instead of cosmetic
procedures. An estimated 7% to 8% of people who seek cosmetic
surgery in the United States have the disorder.
In the new study, researchers
sought to find out whether undergoing cosmetic procedures actually
improves the symptoms of the disorder. In other words, if you're a
body dysmorphic disorder patient and are obsessed about the bump on
your nose and you fix it, will you be less obsessed with your
looks? The study was comprised of 200 people who had been diagnosed
with the disorder. About one-third of the people in the study
sought cosmetic surgery or some minimally invasive cosmetic
treatment. About one-fifth of the people in the study actually
Researchers at Rhode Island
Hospital and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that only 2%
of the procedures seemed to help relieve the symptoms of the
disorder. Only 25% of the treated patients thought their
appearances were improved due to the treatment. In some patients,
the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder actually
The researchers also polled 265
cosmetic surgeons and found that 65% said they had treated people
with the disorder. But only 1% of the cases led to improvement in
People can be successfully treated
for the disorder, but the scalpel or syringe isn't the best method,
the authors of the paper said.
"[P]hysicians need to be aware that
psychiatric treatments for BDD such as serotonin reuptake
inhibitors and cognitive behavioral therapy appear to be effective
for what can be a debilitating disorder," the researchers
The study appeared in the July
issue of the Annals
of Plastic Surgery.