Does Wanting Plastic Surgery Mean You Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

K. Mathews on 22 Jul 2012 at 5:00pm

plastic surgery body dysmorphic disorderPeople who opt for plastic surgery are sometimes accused of having body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). But is that really the case? Does wanting to change something about your body mean you have BDD?

BDD affects approximately 1% of Americans. Those afflicted with it have severe body image issues and fixate on their physical flaws. Typically, these “flaws” are minuscule or imagined by the person with BDD altogether. Nonetheless, the condition is enough to cripple individuals’ self-esteem and push them into isolation so that others do not see what they believe is an imperfect appearance. 

Given the severity of BDD, it’s pretty reckless to toss a casual diagnosis toward anyone who undergoes a cosmetic procedure.

“Just because someone wants a rhinoplasty does not mean they have body dysmorphic disorder. This is a diagnosis made by a mental health professional, not a parent or family member,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Fleming. There is a major difference between someone who wants to change his or her appearance for a confidence boost and someone who is battling a psychological disorder.

“If you spend all day worrying about your nose and it prevents you from taking part in normal daily tasks and socialization, then you might fit the bill, but… this is a psychiatric diagnosis to be made by a professional in that field,” adds Dr. William Rosenblatt.

In fact, there are plenty of plastic surgeons who will not do work on someone who shows symptoms of BDD. After all, it’s pretty hard to fix an imperfection that doesn’t actually exist. A study published in Annals of Plastic Surgery shows that cosmetic procedures are not a great fix for BDD anyway. Only 25% of patients with BDD who had their “problem” area treated reported long-term satisfaction after their procedure. Plus, most of the “happy” patients wound up just transferring their BDD fixations to new body parts instead.

For that reason, if you are concerned that your desire for surgery is motivated by BDD, your money may be better spent by seeking help from a therapist rather than a plastic surgeon to get to the root of the problem. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to first consult with a counselor to make sure cosmetic surgery is the right decision for you.

Photo credit: Stefano Lunardi/Deposit Photos