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Cosmetic Surgery and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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Recent research confirms what plastic surgeons, psychologists and cosmetic surgery industry experts already know: cosmetic surgery does not provide much help for those suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). After treatment, BDD patients battle overall symptoms about as much as they did prior to treatment.

In the July 2010 issue of the journal, “Annals of Plastic Surgery,” researchers Canice Crerand, William Menard and Katherine Phillips reported evaluating the condition of 200 patients with BDD. Forty-two people in the group had undergone cosmetic surgery or minimally invasive treatment compared with 158 patients who had not. The team found that although patients who had undergone a procedure often reported that preoccupation with the target body feature had diminished; overall BDD symptoms had been alleviated for just 2.3 percent of the group.

BDD is a condition that causes obsession with one or more body parts that have a perceived flaw. The flaws may be minor or even non-existent, but the mental anguish is real. Those afflicted suffer symptoms ranging from the compulsion to looking in the mirror frequently and excessive grooming to refusal to engage with others socially and, in the extreme, becoming housebound or even thoughts of suicide. The Mayo Clinic also terms the disorder “imagined ugliness” and notes that the condition isn’t likely to improve if left untreated.

Those who suffer BDD often seek cosmetic surgery. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times reviewing the recent study, about 7 or 8 percent of people who seek plastic surgery have BDD.

Many of the findings and conclusions published by the three researchers won’t surprise those who are familiar with BDD. However, one finding is a bit disturbing: many cosmetic surgeons are willing to perform procedures on patients with BDD, even though the suggested course of action for these people is counseling rather than cosmetic treatment. In fact, of the 265 cosmetic surgeons surveyed, 65 percent said they had provided treatment for people with BDD.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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