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Body dysmorphic disorder & cosmetic surgery: Are surgeons too quick to cut?

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The highest rates of body dysmorphic disorder are found among people seeking help from cosmetic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists and other such specialists.

Most of us have some insecurities about how we look, and some aspects of our appearance that we might secretly wish were different. But for people with body dysmorphic disorder, these issues become an obsession and constant focus of concern.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychiatric condition that leads people to adopt extremely distorted negative beliefs about their appearances: seeing themselves to be ugly, malformed, misshapen or hideous. Such beliefs do not reflect the reality of how they appear to others. The degree of concern and distress they may feel about their appearance is vastly out of proportion to any actual physical “defect”.

A small minority of the population is believed to experience the condition. One study found about 2.3 per cent of participants had the condition.

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Body dysmorphic disorder should not be dismissed as extreme vanity.

The mirror is a major problem for people with body dysmorphic disorder. Some sufferers become fixated with mirror checking, with hours of their day absorbed in inspecting their appearance. Mostly this checking is counter-productive, making them feel worse and increasing their distress.

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Cosmetic procedures of all types are becoming increasingly available and accessible to a wider public.

Other people with the condition may avoid mirrors altogether. Some can even have catastrophic reactions should they happen to glance at themselves in a reflective surface such as a shop window. Lots of sufferers conceal themselves under hats, scarves, wigs, dark glasses or excessive layers of makeup or concealing clothing in an attempt to hide their supposed defects.

Body dysmorphic disorder should not simply be dismissed as an expression of extreme vanity or insecurity about looks. This condition often leads to substantial distress and social and occupational impairment. Rates of…

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