Complex Interplay of Plastic Surgery and BDD

Social media has long been presented as the number one culprit in influencing people’s perception of their body image. However, there has been a problematic inadequacy in the representation of averagely built individuals in the fashion, advertisement, and entertainment industries long before the rise of social media influencers. There was always the onslaught of models and actors possessing unrealistic beauty standards that set them apart from ordinary people. 

The problem then arises when this gap is taken seriously by people who have already possessed a negative body image of themselves. Some people convinced that something is wrong with them will likely develop unhealthy behaviors that align with those beliefs. 

These behaviors often lead to a more serious condition, body dysmorphia. This psychological condition stems from an individual’s extreme obsession over their perceived flaw in their physical appearance, leading to very low self-esteem. They are often seen fixating in front of a mirror, checking on their appearance, not nearly satisfied with any modifications they’ve tried on their bodies. 

Do you want to know if you are suffering from BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder)? Take an initial screening test from this site.

These unhealthy, obsessive thought patterns often lead to equally unhealthy compulsions or the overwhelming need to act in response to these ruminations. One of their many compulsions is the abnormal frequency of plastic surgery clinic visits. 

Plastic surgery, a field of medicine that caters to enhancing the physical appearance and restoring its functionalities in cases of accidents and defects, has a complex relationship with people suffering from body dysmorphia. It essentially has profound psychological implications that either exacerbate their condition or provide them with a degree of relief.

The Potential for Exacerbation

Plastic surgery is often a necessary outlet for patients with body dysmorphic conditions – until it is not. Everything done in moderation usually has the potential to be a good idea until it becomes excessive. The risk of exacerbating this disorder is contributed by the following factors:

  1. Perpetual Dissatisfaction – As people with BDD tend to fixate on their flaws, they will have the tendency to shift this fixation from one attribute to another. Even after surgery, they will seek more procedures to fix other “problem areas,” never really reaching that sense of satisfaction until they deem, they have reached the highest beauty standards, which most often will not ever happen. 
  2. Unrealistic Expectations – Body dysmorphia can cause people to perceive unsatisfactory results of any surgical enhancements done to their bodies due to unrealistically high expectations. This is why patient-doctor consultations are critical in setting realistic expectations, learn more about getting a surgeon’s honest advice here: When patients feel their expectations are unmet, they will likely seek more modifications, starting a downward spiral of deep disappointment and worsening of their conditions. 
  3. Counterproductive coping mechanisms – Going under the knife for some body modification may provide a temporary respite for the person, as the flaw they were obsessing with has finally been removed. However, it essentially did not address the root of the issue, which is psychological. This results in another psychological problem, which is also obsessive in nature – addiction to various surgical enhancement procedures. 
  4. Complications Resulting in Perceived Imperfections – Any type of medical procedure risks complications. While plastic surgery complications are not typically life-threatening for ordinary individuals, any minor imperfections brought by cosmetic surgeries can be magnified in the eyes of body dysmorphic, leading to severe depression and worsened body image.

The Potential for Relief

Nevertheless, plastic surgery can also result in a positive outcome for individuals with BDD. As long as the procedure is approached responsibly and aligns with their physician’s and psychiatrist’s recommendations, they could be the source of relief patients are desperate for.

  1. Successful Procedures – On occasions when the surgery has met or exceeded the patient’s high expectations, it can improve their self-esteem, reducing obsessive thoughts and other symptoms related to their condition.
  2. Enhanced Self- and Body-Image – With successful surgeries come the alignment of these individuals’ perceived self-image and their expected physical appearance. This could potentially lead to reducing the emotional distress caused by the disorder.
  3. Psychological Evaluation – When proper patient screening is employed before every surgical procedure, medical practitioners, especially plastic surgeons, identify those who may be at risk of adverse psychological impacts or those who are already suffering from BDD. With this knowledge, they can steer the patients at risk towards more appropriate treatment.

There is an essential need for every involved medical practitioner to balance plastic surgery with body dysmorphic disorders. A multidisciplinary approach is essential in navigating this complex relationship, including a combination of psychological evaluation, therapy, and surgical enhancements. 

Generally, clinics and hospitals that cater to cosmetic procedures, surgical or non-invasive, are required to conduct a patient assessment and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) screening to gauge a patient’s mental health status and risk level for developing a body dysmorphic condition. During the interview, the plastic surgeons must also set realistic expectations of the surgical outcome. Therapists and other psychological professionals must then be tapped to develop programs for post-operative support. Ultimately, with the interplay of these different disciplines, the goal of alleviating emotional suffering and promoting a healthier self-image and psychological well-being for patients should be underway.

By Caitlyn

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