Nose job patients often mentally ill, study says

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(CBS) Not crazy about your nose? A new study from Belgium suggests you may be mentally ill. It showed that one in three people who seek a nose job (rhinoplasty) have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a psychiatric condition marked by excessive concern over minor or even imaged "flaws" in their appearance.

"This study shows that the prevalence of BDD symptoms in a cosmetic rhinoplasty population is high and that the severity of symptoms has a clearly negative effect on daily functioning," the study's authors concluded.

The 16-month study - published in the August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - involved 226 patients age 16 or older who came to doctors seeking rhinoplasty. Of patients who were seeking the procedure to correct a breathing problem, only about 2 percent showed symptoms of BDD. But of those who wanted a nose job for cosmetic reasons, 43 percent showed symtoms of the disorder.

BDD was especially common among people with a history of mental illness, as well as those who had already had a nose job and were seeking "revision" surgery.

Surgeons are discouraged from performing rhinoplasty on patients who show signs of BDD.

"The biggest mistake is to offer to operate on them, because the chances that they will be satisfied afterward, no matter how good the shape of the nose may be, are very low," Dr. Phillip Haeck, a plastic surgeon in Seattle, told the New York Times.

Body dysmorphic disorder affects 1 percent to 2 percent of the population and is more common in women than in men. Some people with the condition are so ashamed of their appearance that they avoid going out in public or spending time with family and friends. About three-quarters are depressed.

The good news? Antidepressants and a form of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy are often effective against BDD.

NIH has more on body dysmorphic disorder.

  • David W Freeman

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