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Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Can You Trust Your Eyes?

By Daniel Baker

“If a patient thinks about their appearance a hundred times a day, that needs to be looked at as a possible red flag.” – Dr. Jonathan Sykes, Professor and Director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of California/Davis

Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? Many people don’t and for them, cosmetic enhancement procedures can be a wonderful tool for redefining appearance, but their appearance does not define them nor does it hold them back from enjoying life.

Sadly, no amount of cosmetic enhancement in the world can help someone with a mental illness known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). The Australian Psychological Society vividly describes the experience like this:

“Think for a moment what it must be like to go to the mirror every morning (and perhaps, compulsively, several times throughout the night) and not like what you see; to feel ashamed; and refuse to leave the house because the thought of others seeing how hideous and how deformed, you are…is just too much to bear. Think of the self-loathing, the fear. Think then what it must be like to repeatedly examine your “defects” throughout the day, in mirrors or any suitable reflective surface, perpetuating the cycle of discontent.” – The Australian Psychological Society

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Under Discussion

BDD and protocols to help doctors and patients recognise its symptoms were on the agenda at the 11th International Symposium of Facial Plastic Surgery where Dr Jonathan Sykes spoke eloquently on the subject. A recognised expert in the field of aesthetic, functional and reconstruction surgeries, Dr Sykes has performed more than 13,500 procedures on patients ranging from infants to the elderly.

We’re pleased to share some of that cutting edge information with you here.

Diagnosing Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is described as a preoccupation, or obsession, with a slight or perceived defect in appearance. It is classified as a mental illness that can drive some people to seek cosmetic surgery for treatment they do not need.

BDD can be difficult to diagnose because many patients are too ashamed to reveal their symptoms, fearing that their concerns will be trivialised or considered vain. “Doctors spend too much time telling patients how good they are rather than finding out who they are,” Dr Sykes told conference participants.

If you are concerned that your perceptions may be out of kilter, even a little, let your surgeon know so you can get help and start to feel better. Good communication is the first step in every successful cosmetic enhancement procedure. 

Visit this page at The U.S. National Institutes of Health website for additional information about BDD including a short checklist for diagnosing the condition.