You may have heard the story late last month: ABC’s Good Morning America reported that a full third of rhinoplasty patients show signs of BDD, or body dysmorphic disorder (Conley 1). Unbelievable as that number sounds, the news is based on a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Plastic surgeons are one group of professionals who know quite a lot about rhinoplasty and body dysmorphic disorder.
The study, reports Good Morning America, surveyed 250 rhinoplasty patients from Belgium. The authors found that 33 percent of the group exhibited signs of moderate to severe BDD. The researchers noted that BDD seems to be quite prevalent among patients seeking nose jobs, and because the symptoms of BDD include extreme self-consciousness and avoidance of social activities, they also concluded that the level of these patients’ BDD had a marked impact on their daily lives (Conley 1).
The amazing thing about this news is not really the nose job factor. One of the plastic surgeons quoted in the Good Morning America article noted that when you look in the mirror, the nose is the first thing you see. He believes that for some who are unhappy with various areas of their lives, the nose might easily become a target of blame (Conley 1).
So while it makes a certain amount of sense that rhinoplasty might be a common procedure desired by those with BDD, it’s remarkable that the number is so high. In 2005, the American Psychological Association reported that 7 to 12 percent of plastic surgery patients showed some signs of BDD (Dittmann 1). Two years later, an article in the online journal Psychiatry mentioned a variety of studies in the United States and Europe indicated BDD rates for plastic surgery patients ranging from 6.3 percent to 15 percent (Sansome 1).
So, what does that surprising 33 percent figure for rhinoplasty patients tell us? It could be that the rate of BDD for patients seeking cosmetic surgery has risen lately, or is higher than it has been believed to be, but there’s not enough information to make that leap.