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08/12/2010

Slicin’ and Dicin’ Doesn’t Work for BDD Sufferers

As shocking as this might sound, those who suffer from body dismorphic disorder (BDD) don’t feel better or improve on any indicators after having plastic surgery according to a recent study in the Annals of Plastic Surgery.

As reported in Booster Shots, 7-8% of cosmetic surgery patients have these disorders, but among these patients, only 2% found that the procedure they received actually made them feel better about how they looked. After surgery they feel just as critical about their appearance as before.

So what is the cure? Not going under the knife, say the authors of the study. But what about giving patients the right to choose whatever procedures they want? Frankly, that goes right out the window when you are talking about costly, potentially risky or disfiguring cosmetic procedures that result in no psychological and no health benefits at all.

And what if there were even some psychological benefits? I’m still not so sure. There must be better ways to improve the self-image of those who feel bad about their bodies than cutting into them.

What is clearly the case is plastic surgeons need to be better at detecting those who have BDD and steering them away from procedures that will only leave them feeling unsatisfied about themselves and to steer them toward psychological help. This is one clear case where autonomy is trumped by beneficence if there ever was one.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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