Several studies show that some people who repeatedly seek cosmeticsurgery are afflicted with a mental disorder called body dysmorphicdisorder. But undergoing a nip here, tuck there or a poke betweenthe eyes does nothing to improve the mental condition of thesepeople, according to a new study.
Body dysmorphic disorder is acondition in which people become preoccupied with their looks tothe point of being obsessed over minor flaws or perceivedimperfections. They often become so addled by their obsession overphysical beauty they become dysfunctional in other aspects of theirlives. Typically, such people are heavy users of cosmetic surgery.Some doctors are willing to abide by the demands of patients withthe disorder even though medical guidelines suggest that suchpatients undergo psychological counseling instead of cosmeticprocedures. An estimated 7% to 8% of people who seek cosmeticsurgery in the United States have the disorder.
In the new study, researcherssought to find out whether undergoing cosmetic procedures actuallyimproves the symptoms of the disorder. In other words, if you're abody dysmorphic disorder patient and are obsessed about the bump onyour nose and you fix it, will you be less obsessed with yourlooks? The study was comprised of 200 people who had been diagnosedwith the disorder. About one-third of the people in the studysought cosmetic surgery or some minimally invasive cosmetictreatment. About one-fifth of the people in the study actuallyreceived treatment.
Researchers at Rhode IslandHospital and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that only 2%of the procedures seemed to help relieve the symptoms of thedisorder. Only 25% of the treated patients thought theirappearances were improved due to the treatment. In some patients,the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder actuallyworsened.
The researchers also polled 265cosmetic surgeons and found that 65% said they had treated peoplewith the disorder. But only 1% of the cases led to improvement indisorder symptoms.
People can be successfully treatedfor the disorder, but the scalpel or syringe isn't the best method,the authors of the paper said.
"[P]hysicians need to be aware thatpsychiatric treatments for BDD such as serotonin reuptakeinhibitors and cognitive behavioral therapy appear to be effectivefor what can be a debilitating disorder," the researcherswrote.
The study appeared in the Julyissue of the Annals of Plastic Surgery.